This is it folks. 9 games remain in the regular season for the Pelicans, and while their situation is not ideal, they have a shot at earning the 8th and final playoff spot in the big bad Western Conference. New Orleans is currently 2 ½ games in back of the Oklahoma City Thunder, which pretty much means they'll need to remain close to perfect the rest of the way in order to overtake OKC.
It certainly won't be easy, as New Orleans begins a 3 game west coast road trip tonight in LA against the Lakers, then go to Sacramento on Friday and finish up in Portland on Saturday before coming back to the Smoothie King Center only to have the best team in the NBA waiting as a guest in their home.
The Walking Dead roster is starting to come back to life at least - Ryan Anderson has missed 18 games with a knee injury and expects to play at some point on this road trip. The forward is known for his 3-ball prowess and his outside presence could really help open things up down low for the big men. Jrue Holiday remains listed as day-to-day with a stress reaction in his leg and the injury has been a bit of a mystery. The team won't say much other then they expect the point guard to be back on the court sometime before the season ends, but I'm not holding my breath.
Looking at the Thunder's upcoming schedule, they do have tougher match-ups ahead then the Pels. OKC's next 4 games are against teams in the West that have a better record than them. Unfortunately, 3 of those 4 contests are in Oklahoma City giving the undermanned Thunder the home court advantage.
Hope you don't rattle easily, Pels fans, because the next 2 weeks will likely be edge of your seat, fingernail biting, knots in your stomach basketball viewing. In case you may be worried about suffering a greater heartache if OKC and New Orleans end the year with identical records, don't be. If by miracles of miracles that does happen to be the case, the Pelicans hold the tie-breaker edge over the Thunder after winning 3 of the 4 games against them this season. Let's just hope we see plenty of this in the final 9 games…
While the entire Saints defense had a down year last season, it’s pretty clear that defensive end Cam Jordan is a vital part of it having success in the future. The 25-year old was the team’s 24th pick in the 1st round back in 2011, and is entering the 5th and final year of his rookie contract. With the main concern this offseason being the salary cap, getting Jordan inked to a long term deal to remain in New Orleans has been an afterthought.
Head coach Sean Payton was asked about it though, today at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, and made it pretty clear the franchise intends to have Jordan staying put after this season.
“I know there have been discussions, both with Mickey (Loomis) and his agent, with regards to a long term deal,” Payton said. “We think he’s part of the solution.”
Jordan busted out for 12.5 sacks in 2013 and earned a ticket to Honolulu for his first Pro Bowl. He struggled with the rest of the Saints defense last season, but still managed a respectable 7.5 sacks.
The future is definitely bright for the 6-ft-4, 287 pound DE. Locking him up long term would be a wise move by the Saints front office before next offseason to avoid letting Jordan test the free agent market, where he would find 31 other suitors.
We have finally heard from Saints head coach Sean Payton following the trade of tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle. NBC Sports caught up with him at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.
"It's really looking at, hey, where are those areas where we feel like we need to improve, where are those must areas, and then, where are the assets that we feel we can do that?” said Payton.
“Mickey and I discussed this trade for, shoot, a week leading up to it. And we really felt strongly it was going to require the player, Max Unger, but also a first-round pick. So we gotta look at... how do we improve our defense, how do we improve certain weaknesses on our team? You don't ever want to lose a player like Jimmy, and yet we feel like this gives us an opportunity to do that."
“Now it’s our job as coaches to find additional targets. We feel like we got one in CJ Spiller, a complete different position, but none the less a play-maker when the ball is in his hands.”
Spiller is a pass-catching running back in the mold of a Pierre Thomas or Darren Sproles, and Payton was asked how they plan on using their new weapon along with Mark Ingram.
“We’ll look at packages to put him out wide, packages when he’s in the game with another running back,” Payton replied.
“The key with him is to find a way to get him the ball in space because he’s so explosive. So, that will be up to us to do that.”
The issue of the defense also came up. Last year was abysmal, as the Fleur Di Lis D ranked 31st in the league. Is the goal just to get better players on defense or will they look into changing the scheme in 2015?
“Well, I think there’s gonna be a little bit of both. We’ve got to look closely at what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with,” Payton responded.
“You’re trying to find good football players, and then as you’re able to find them, then look closely at what should our scheme be to match what they do. If you watched the Super Bowl, so much of the game is now played in nickel. I want to say close to 88% of that game was played in some type of sub-package, both offensively and defensively. So you better have corner, you better have guys that can cover the third receiver.”
The Saints haven't just made a splash in the free agency pool this season, they've leapt off the diving board and have done a perfect cannonball. First came the cuts, releasing Pierre Thomas and Curtis Lofton. Then trades for Jimmy Graham, Ben Grubbs and Kenny Stills. The team also let go of Corey White, but I think everyone broke into the happy dance when that was announced, so I don't consider him a real loss.
Replacing the players going out are new running back C.J. Spiller, center Max Unger, cornerback Branson Browner, linebacker Dannel Ellerbe and another 1st and 5th round pick in this year's NFL draft.
The changes have been called everything, from a "roster makeover," to a "retooling" and even a "complete overhaul." But what do the folks that really count think? Yeah, that's right... Las Vegas.
Unfortunately Who Dat Nation, the wise guys in the desert are not as optimistic about the changes as we are. Before the free agency period opened the Saints were 22/1 favorites to win the Super bowl this year. Now their odds have plummeted to 40/1
That's quite a substantial shift. Now, the Saints may not be done making moves and the draft is coming at the end of April, so the team is far from a completed product. Would you put money on the Black & Gold to win it all this season, or are you saving your cold hard cash for concessions at the game?
Folks, I have been glued to my laptop and smartphone just waiting to get a whiff of some Saints news - the team needs to get under the salary cap by March 10th.
There has been a lot of talk about running back Mark Ingram and if he winds up back in Black & Gold, but other then that it has been relatively quiet concerning contract restructures or players getting released.
Well, just now a Black & Gold bomb was dropped on Twitter:
The #Saints are shopping LB Curtis Lofton, who had 144 tackles in 2014 and has played in 16 games every year of his career. Unexpected.
The Curtis Lofton? Mr. Led-the-team-in-tackles-for-the-last-3-seasons Lofton? This is a real stunner to me considering the Saints are looking to improve their defense & leadership - losing C-Lo feels like a big step back!
The Byrdman tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee during practice back in October and only suited up for 4 games last year. He was the prized addition in the offseason since he's known for being a "ballhawk", something the Saints defense desperately needs.
New Orleans created just 17 takeaways last season which ranked 28th in the NFL. A healthy Byrd should help boost that number in 2015 along with solidifying a secondary that was a complete wreck.
But is that what you really want folks? Or are you just having fond memories of when Bush was here, helping the Black & Gold hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 2010?
First off, its 2015, people, and Bush will turn 30 years old on Monday. His only full season when he was a Saint was his rookie year. The guy is fragile! In fact in his nine seasons of playing in the NFL, Bush has played a 16 game season only twice (2006, 2012). Last year he appeared in 11 contests and scored only 2 TDs as he couldn’t stay healthy dealing with an ankle injury that never seemed to heal.
Secondly; I seem to recall Who Dats being frustrated here with Bush’s East/West running style instead of him going North/South. Sometimes his speed could break one for a big gain, but you can’t think he still has the same burst anymore. He would just frustrate you even more now as he’d opt to step out of bounds instead of risk getting dinged up.
And finally, Bush would be a luxury purchase for the Saints not a need. And to me the team has a whole lot of other problems that are more important in addressing. How about getting under the salary cap? New Orleans is neck deep in the salary cap water currently as they are about $20 million dollars over. There’s been talk of the team parting ways with Jarhi Evans, Marques Colston, even Curtis Lofton and I’m supposed to think about them singing a RB who is always hurt?
Go to YouTube or pop in your Saints Super Bowl DVD to relive good times with Reggie Bush. Because they aren’t coming back and neither should he.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com caught up with Saints head coach Sean Payton at the NFL combine and asked him about the team's disappointing 7-9 season. Payton mentioned that a lack of leadership in the locker room was a big factor for their failure.
He went on to name guys like Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Jabari Greer, Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper and Darren Sproles and admitted it was hard to recover losing so many of those guys in one season.
Payton was asked if he had any guys in mind to step up into that role or if they would have to address that more in free agency.
“I think both,” Payton said. “I think there’s going to have to be a few guys we look at in free agency. I also think we have a good, young nucleus of players. A good locker room, by and large, but you can never take that for granted.”
Drew Brees’s big cap hit this season was also brought up. The Saints signal caller along will count $27 million against the salary cap this season. Is the team thinking about extending his deal to knock that number down some?
“It’s nothing that we’ve discussed as something immediate,” Payton replied. “I don’t think that’s going to be something happening anytime soon or something that he or his agent talk to Mickey about either.”
Being at the NFL combine, Payton was also asked the team’s biggest needs in 2015.
“I think one’s a corner,” he answered immediately. “I think another position is an interior offensive lineman and potentially a pass rusher. And those are invaluable positions to every team every year. Cover guys, guys that can rush the passer and an inside player offensively.”
The Pelicans needed a short term answer to their Jrue Holiday injury problem and netted themselves Norris Cole from the Heat in exchange for John Salmons. Cole is not having a good season, but at least the Pels basically gave up nothing for him.
In 47 games, he is averaging 6 points, 3.5 assists and 2 rebounds while playing 24 minutes. On a positive note Cole is still just 26 years old and does have NBA Finals experience as he's played in Miami since 2011-12 season.
The 2nd half of the season resumes for the Pelicans tomorrow in Orlando. New Orleans is 1.5 games behind Phoenix for the 8th and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Both Anthony Davis (sprained right shoulder) and Ryan Anderson (sprained right elbow) have been upgraded to probable.
Before getting to walk inside the Pelicans practice facility today my phone lit up with a notification from the team that Jrue Holiday had suffered a setback. Not a good way to start the day.
The Pelicans point guard re-aggravated the stress reaction in his lower right leg and will be re-evaluated in three weeks by the team’s medical staff. There is no time table for his return and has already flown out to Los Angeles to see a specialist.
New Orleans had announced earlier in the day that veteran PG Toney Douglas was signed to another 10 day contract, which makes sense following the news on Holiday.
How about Anthony Davis though? He spoke to the media following the day's workout and his sprained right shoulder was taped up with some ice. Davis was injured in Chicago on Feb. 7th and missed the next 2 games. He also opted out of taking part in All Star weekend in NYC to rest his ailment but did still attend the event.
Davis' plan is to play Friday in Orlando barring any setbacks. We will know more after tomorrow's practice session when there is actual physical contact.
Also on the mend is Ryan Anderson who suffered a sprained elbow in that same game AD got hurt. Like Davis, he says the goal is to play Friday.
With just 29 games left to go in the regular season New Orleans sits in 10th place in the Western Conference. They are 1 game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and 1.5 in back of Phoenix Suns who reside in the coveted 8th spot in the conference.
Due to a shoulder sprain he suffered this past Saturday against Chicago, Pelicans Forward Anthony Davis has decided to sit out All-Star weekend in New York City “After careful thought and consideration, I've decided I will not be participating in this year’s NBA All-Star competitions", Davis said. "I want to thank the fans for voting me into the All-Star game and I am sorry I will not be able to play."
AD was the 3rd leading vote getter this year after making it as a reserve last season. Only Lebron James and Stephen Curry revived more votes from fans.
"While I’m disappointed that I won't be able to compete this weekend, I'm still very excited about the opportunity to be a part of the All-Star events in New York and celebrate our game with some of the NBA’s greatest figures", the Brow added. "More than anything, I am anxious to get healthy and back on the court with my teammates after the All-Star break.”
Davis is averaging 25 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. New Orleans desperately needs him, point guard Jrue Holiday and forward Ryan Anderson back in the line-up as the team is just 1.5 games out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. There are just 29 games left to play in the season; the next one being Feb. 20th in Orlando vs. the Magic.