COMMENTARY | Through five games, the 2013-14 New Orleans Pelicans have been a model of inconsistency.
Although many fans had dreams of New Orleans returning to the NBA playoffs, the Pelicans' 2-3 record should surprise no one. Despite an improved roster, the Pelicans are still one of the youngest teams in the NBA. A quick look at Michael Jordan's NBA career proves that young stars take a long time before becoming winners. Jordan did not win his first playoff series until his fourth season, and it took him seven years to win an NBA championship.
One of the hallmarks of young NBA teams is inconsistency. That was certainly on display this week at home against the Phoenix Suns and on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Pelicans were rested, but they lost to the Suns 104-98. However, the squad rebounded the following night to defeat the Grizzlies 99-84. I'm sure these bizarre results had New Orleans fans shaking their heads. But bad losses and upset wins are typical of young NBA teams.
Besides playing inconsistently from game to game, the Pelicans have taken erratic play to new heights. In fact, you never know which team will show up from quarter to quarter. For example, the Pelicans outscored the Suns 28-17 in the first quarter, but were outscored 37-24 in the third. Then New Orleans had a similar showing against the Grizzlies. The Pelicans outscored Memphis 33-18 in the first quarter and were outscored 27-20 in the final period.
One pattern that has continued from last season is the Pelicans' fast starts and bad finishes. In fact, New Orleans is outscoring its opponents 27.6-17.2 in the first quarter through five games. Last year, the Pelicans also let many leads disappear late. Many fans blamed Eric Gordon for this. When he was actually healthy enough to play, he'd typically get off to fast starts and then disappear in crunch time. Some people speculated that his lack of playing time hurt his stamina late in games.
With no one on the Pelicans' roster possessing muscle memory of winning big NBA games under pressure, New Orleans' young squad will have to learn how to win on its own. For now, the recipe for success appears to be to build up such a substantial lead in the first half that their opponents just can't make up the difference. Even the Grizzlies went on a late run, but they were so far behind that they couldn't overtake New Orleans.
Other fans are already complaining about New Orleans coach Monty Williams. Last season, many New Orleans fans questioned his bizarre rotations and they blamed him for getting out-coached coming out of halftime. This year, the Pelicans don't seem to be making halftime adjustments and many fans complained that Tyreke Evans didn't play enough in the second half as the Suns came back to defeat New Orleans.
However, it's also important to remember that while most NBA teams are healthy this time of year, the Pelicans are missing one of their best players. Ryan Anderson has yet to see action this season for New Orleans due to a broken toe. As a power forward who is also a deadly three-point shooter, Anderson is a match up nightmare who cannot be replaced. When he returns in a week or two, New Orleans will automatically become a better team.
What makes matters worse in New Orleans is that the Pelicans have several new players, including PG Jrue Holiday. Clearly, it will take time for Holiday to digest the offense and establish chemistry with his new teammates. This is not something that can happen in training camp or in a handful of preseason games. Although the Pelicans' inconsistency will continue throughout the season, New Orleans should improve in the second half as the team comes together.
If nothing else, the Pelicans will be a much more entertaining team than they have been recently. Fans never know what to expect and there are sure to be many big wins to celebrate. If the Pelicans can stay around .500, then the second half of the season could get very interesting. However, playing in the Western Conference doesn't give inconsistent teams much margin of error, which could be too much for the young Pelicans to overcome this season.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. A loyal New Orleans NBA fan, Patrick was a diehard New Orleans Jazz fan and now cheers for the Pelicans. Patrick was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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