I still check the New Orleans Pelicans schedule regularly.
The Pelicans were still in the hunt for a playoff spot at just 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th seed in the Western Conference before the NBA season was suspended due to the spread of COVID-19.
Here are the games we have missed out on:
At the Sacramento Kings, March 11
At the Utah Jazz, March 13
At the Los Angeles Clippers, March 14
Home for Atlanta Hawks, March 16
Home for San Antonio Spurs, March 18
At the Memphis Grizzlies, March 21
Home for Sacramento Kings, March 22
Home for Memphis Grizzlies, March 24
The Pelicans were scheduled to play the Kings on the night the NBA was suspended. The Pelicans and Kings had identical records and were in the same situation. It was an important game.
The Pelicans were chasing the Grizzlies. Those two games could have defined the season.
As we sit and wait on the NBA’s final decision on bringing the season back, we can only think “What could have been?”
The season could still come back but we do not know in what fashion. All I know is there could have been eight games that would have told us a lot about the Pelicans.
Zion Williamson could have closed the Rookie of the Year gap with Memphis guard Ja Morant. Zion played in 19 games and averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game on 58.9 percent shooting from the field. The Pelicans No. 1 overall pick started to gain ground in the Rookie of the Year discussion. That has now been suspended.
Lonzo Ball could have continued to prove people wrong. Ball was viewed as a poor perimeter shooter in his first two seasons in the league. He only made 1.7 threes per game in his rookie year and 1.6 three per games in his sophomore season. The former No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers came over to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis trade and started to turn his shooting around. Ball made 2.5 threes per game with the Pelicans, but he made 21 threes in his last four games. He was starting to find his shooting touch going into the final stretch of the season but that has now been suspended.
Brandon Ingram was an All-Star in his first year with the New Orleans Pelicans. Ingram emerged as a leader and go-to player for the Pelicans. The team’s leading scorer guided New Orleans through a rocky 6-22 start and pushed the team back into playoff relevancy. Now we can only wonder what Brandon Ingram could have done for the team in their remaining 18 games but that has now been suspended.
Jrue Holiday got off to a slow start to the season and remained inconsistent through the team’s first 64 games. Holiday showed flashes of a leader, especially in the road win against the Indiana Pacers where he recorded 31 points and 10 assists without Ingram or Zion. Holiday averaged 25.7 points and 8 assists per game in the team’s last four contests. The veteran point guard was involved in trade speculation before the NBA trade deadline and going into the offseason. Holiday could have proved himself as an important piece to fit alongside Ingram and Zion but that has now been suspended.
I think about what those four players were doing and what they could have done in those eight games. I think about Derrick Favors leading the Pelicans defense and what he could have done for the team’s developing chemistry. I think about the fun Josh Hart rebounds we could have seen. And yes, he is the team’s best rebounder. I think about J.J. Redick’s 13-season playoff streak and if this means it will come to an end. I think about Nikola Mirot- sorry, Nicolo Melli and how he was almost the perfect fit with Zion. There were so many surprisingly good Melli defensive moments we have missed out on during this stretch. I think about how many E’Twaun Moore floaters we could have marveled at. And I think about the rookies Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. While their playing time faded, there were still shining moments during their rookie campaigns. I don’t think about Frank Jackson.
But all of these things have been suspended and I completely understand the reason behind the season suspension. We do not know when the season will return. We can only wonder what we have missed out on.