The New Orleans Pelicans had 2 goals to start the season and accomplished both. Finish with a winning record (45-37) and earn a spot in the postseason. Though some want to criticize what GM Dell Demps and Coach Monty Williams have done with the franchise; to me you can't argue with success.
The team not only went underwent a name change, but a complete roster make-over the last few years. In every season, they have shown progression. What's the old saying folks…"Rome was not built in a day."
Now in just his 3rd season in the NBA, All-Star Anthony Davis has led the flock to the playoffs where they must take on the best team in the league in the 1st round.
Golden State finished the regular season with a record of 67-15 and is the top overall seed in the Association. They have the best guard tandem on the planet with Stephen Curry and Clay Thomson; who are known as the "Splash Brothers" for their ability to knock down a shot from just about anywhere on the court.
Curry is averaging 24 points per game behind 49% shooting from the field and 44% percent from beyond the arc. When he isn't making buckets, Curry is finding open teammates, averaging 8 assists per game.
Many of those dimes find Thompson, who averages 22 points per contest on 44% shooting from 3-point range. Besides that lethal duo you cannot forget Draymond Green, Marreese Speights and Harrison Barnes who also average double figures for the Warriors.
The Pelicans were just 1-3 against G.S. this year, but that one victory was towards the tail end of the season and could give the team some added confidence heading into the series.
Las Vegas sure doesn't think so though. They currently give the Warriors a 97% chance to take the series from the Pels. For game 1, Golden State is an 11.5 point favorite which should be expected since they lost only 2 games in Oracle Arena all year.
There always seems to be one huge upset in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but I don't believe New Orleans can take 4 games from the Warriors, who lead the league in scoring, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. It's just way too much firepower for the Pelicans to overcome.
Series prediction: Warriors in 5
Game 1 - Sat. April 18, New Orleans at Golden State, 2:30 p.m.
Game 2 - Mon. April 20, New Orleans at Golden State, 9:30 p.m.
Game 3 - Thu. April 23, Golden State at New Orleans, 8:30 p.m.
Game 4 - Sat. April 25, Golden State at New Orleans, 7 p.m.
Game 5 * - Tue. April 28, New Orleans at Golden State, TBD
Game 6 * - Fri. May 1, Golden State at New Orleans, TBD
Game 7 * - Sun. May 3, New Orleans at Golden State, TBD
Every game can be heard on the flagship of the Pelicans, 105.3 WWL FM
After 81 of the 82 games in the regular season for the Pelicans, it all comes down to the finale to determine whether or not this franchise will be playing playoffs hoops. New Orleans and Oklahoma City own identical 44-37 records and both teams are hoping they can seal the deal Wednesday night to earn the 8th seed in the wild Western Conference.
The good news is that the Pelicans own the tie breaker over the Thunder, so if the 2 teams remain tied; it will be the Pels who advance thanks to taking 3 of 4 match-ups against OKC this season.
On the other hand, the bad news is who each squad will be facing. New Orleans must tackle the defining champion San Antonio Spurs, who are the hottest ballclub in the NBA right now having won 11 straight. The Thunder, well, they get to go to Minnesota and face the absolute worst team in the association that has dropped their last 11.
In other words, don't bet on the Timberwolves doing New Orleans any favors, despite the contest being played in Minny.
While the task seems - and kind of is monumentous for the Pelicans - it is still very possible.
For starters, the Spurs have to come to the Smoothie King Center. The birds have defended the nest well this season, as they own a home record of 27-13 and have won their last 4 there.
New Orleans has also played solid against San Antonio. The Pelicans have taken 2 of the last 3 match-ups and actually should have won all 3. No, I'm serious! With the game in hand on New Year's Eve in San Antonio, one of the freakiest plays I've ever seen in an NBA game occurred sending the game to overtime, where the Pelicans ultimately lost. Talk about a crappy way to ring in 2015.
But, both teams are a lot different now. Players are healthy, rosters have new faces and one squad is accustomed to playing in big games this time of year. Like clockwork, folks were ready to leave the Spurs for dead midway through the year but they now ascended to be one of the cream of the crop in the league. There is no chance the Spurs will be resting guys, since they, too, have a lot to play for.
San Antonio will be the #2 seed in the West with a victory, or could fall all the way to 6th with a loss. The Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets are all tied with records of 55-26 and the Memphis Grizzlies are also lurking at 54-27.
On the season, the Spurs are averaging 103 points on 47 percent shooting and are allowing 979 points on 44 percent shooting. Kawhi Leonard is averaging 16.5 points and 7 rebounds while Tim Duncan is averaging 14 points and 9 boards. The always dangerous Tony Parker has 14 points with 5 assists per game. The only person they could be without is Matt Bonner who is questionable with a calf injury.
The Pelicans are averaging 99 points on 45.6 percent shooting and are allowing 98 points on 45.5 percent shooting. Anthony Davis is averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds while Tyreke Evans is at 17 points and 6.5 assists per contest. Point guard Jrue Holiday is back in the mix after missing a good chunk of the year with a stress reaction in his leg. Despite being held out last game, he will be a full go against the Spurs.
It certainly isn't going to be easy for the home team, but the Pelicans have been through a lot this season and are battle tested. They have overcome injuries and being an inexperienced ballclub in big situations to get to this point. Now, just one game and one team stand in their way of the prize; making the playoffs. We'll see if they are ready to seize the moment and become the team we know they can be.
MVP candidate Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors come to town with a record of 63-14 and have won 9 of their last 10 games. In fact, they just got roughed up by the San Antonio Spurs and hopefully don't take things out on the Pels.
New Orleans sits just a half game out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but getting the job done in these final 6 games WILL NOT be easy.
The Pelicans have the 3rd hardest remaining schedule in the Association, while the team they are trying to edge to get into postseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder, own the 14th toughest.
More bad news for the Pels is that they have not been able to beat the Warriors the last 10 meetings. In fact, the last time New Orleans beat Golden State was
ALLLLLLLLL they way back in 2012. Seriously, that's 3 years ago, folks!
New Orleans has defended home court well though this season; they are 25-13 in "The Blender."
Maybe Golden State comes into town and decides to rest their stars, since they already clinched and are assured they will finish the year with the best record out of any team in the NBA.
But, I wouldn't bet on it. Especially after losing their last time on the court, the Warriors will come out to play.
The workout calendar has been released for every team in the NFL, and the New Orleans Saints will kick off their offseason program on April 20th. After the draft, rookie minicamp will be May 15th-17th.
The organized team activities (OTAs) will be on...
The Saints will then hold minicamp June 16th-18th.
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.