Pelicans just outside playoffs in NBA West

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Here’s the New Orleans Times-Picayune on the Pelicans’ situation, which right now involves missing the playoffs unless the regular season does resume. Which it might, unless the league decides to go straight to the playoffs. Unless, of course, the remainder of 2019-20 gets cancelled. All of those options are on the table, for now.

The Pelicans — who at 28-36 are in 10th place in the Western Conference — are rooting for anything that doesn’t involve going straight to the postseason. They trail the Memphis Grizzlies, who are in eighth place, by 3½ games.

Earlier this month, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said he is hopeful that his team would get enough games “to do some damage in.”

“We want to play meaningful games, and if we can be put in that position, we’d be grateful,” Griffin said. “I think it will be difficult for the league to have us come back into the facility and get ready for – let’s call it a month to get physically ready, and then play only a week or two weeks of games. So I think unless they’re able to give us a full schedule, they won’t have us come back.”

The league is currently examining a plan to resume action possibly in July, possibly, in a single location: Disney Wide World of Sports, in Orlando. A decision on that should come in the next few weeks.

Pelicans practice facility reopens for voluntary individual player workouts

Here’s the New Orleans Times-Picayune reporting that the Pelicans practice facility has reopened, with severe limitations for safety reasons due to the cornavirus pandemic:

At the Ochsner Sports Performance Center, there are arrows taped to the floor to instruct players where they can and can’t go. Only two baskets inside the entire facility are available to shoot on. And anyone who goes in must have their temperature checked.

These are just a few of the precautions the Pelicans are taking at their practice facility, which reopened Monday for voluntary individual workouts. David Griffin, the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, said seven players worked out. There were three players in the first group and four players in the second group. Both groups spent two hours in the building.

The rules the NBA has put in place about reopening practice facilities are so restrictive, Griffin said he believes some of the players who are social distancing outside of the greater New Orleans area are better positioned to keep their skills sharp than the ones here.

Pelicans reportedly plan to reopen practice facility soon

One by one, teams are taking steps towards reopening their practice facilities, but just so individual players can take advantage. As individuals. While physical-distancing. And not yet working together as a team. Here’s the New Orleans Times-Picayune with an update:

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to reopen their practice facility in Metairie on May 18, a source confirmed.

Earlier this week, the NBA began allowing teams to open their doors in municipalities where stay-at-home orders have been lifted. Louisiana’s stay-at-home order runs through Friday. The Pelicans plan to start allowing players in for individual workouts three days after it is set to expire.

NBA practice facilities have been shuttered since March 20. Even though players are being let back in, there are strict regulations on what they’re allowed to do. According to a memo the NBA sent out, no more than four players are allowed inside practice facilities at one time. Only one staff member can work with each player, and that staff member can’t be a head coach, a front-of-bench coach or a front office executive. Anyone with a temperature above 99.1 degrees is not allowed to enter.

Hopefully there are some video cameras at some of these workouts, to at least give us some basketball to watch. Even if it’s just one player’s shooting drills or something.

Pelicans season ticket-holders offered refund for remaining home games

We’re all waiting to see what will happen with the remainder of the NBA season, and the playoffs. Here’s the New Orleans Times Picayune with a Pelicans-related update:

Pelicans season-ticket holders now have the option of receiving a refund for the nine home games postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, the team told season-ticket holders they could get their money back or receive credit toward next season for games New Orleans was supposed to host between March 16 and April 13.

“While we await a decision from the league office, we wanted to begin proactively communicating with you now in an effort to present you with options for a refund or credit toward future ticket purchases,” the email to season-ticket holders read.

The Pelicans are one of the NBA’s hot young teams to watch, due to a talented core that should only get better.

But for now, we wait.

The latest on the Pelicans

Here’s the New Orleans Times-Picayune with some words on the Pelicans:

With the NBA at a standstill and no end in sight, David Griffin, the Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations, tuned in to watch football Monday night.

ESPN was re-airing the Saints’ 23-3 win over the Falcons from 2006, which was New Orleans’ first game at the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. To Griffin, the game was a reminder of how important sports can be during difficult moments.

“We do have a role in spiritual rebirth here,” Griffin said Tuesday in an interview on NBA TV. “Ironically, we’re talking the day after ESPN re-aired the 2006 Falcons at Saints game that reopened the Dome. I think from that standpoint, it very much was a rebirth for this city. Football brought something this city desperately needed. It was something of a return to normalcy.”

When the NBA returns, Griffin said he is hopeful the Pelicans can do something similar. The league has been shut down since March 12 because of the coronavirus. There is still no timetable for a return.

The Pelicans were a modest 28-36 when NBA play was put on hold in mid March, but there’s every reason for the team to be optimistic about the future of their core of exciting young talent.

Chemistry developed quickly between Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson

Pelicans star rookie Zion Williamson’s career debut was delayed due to injury, but once he got started, buckets came quickly. So did rebounds. And dunks. Especially alley-oops, many coming from passes thrown by point guard Lonzo Ball. The two players developed quick chemistry and are fun to watch play together. Here’s the New Orleans Times-Picayune on it:

Ball and Williamson are a threat to connect at any time. It doesn’t matter how early it is in the shot clock or how far away they are from each other. During the Pelicans’ 120-107 win over the Timberwolves on March 8, their final game before play paused indefinitely, Ball found Williamson for a three-quarters court and a half-court alley-oop in a span of a little more than one minute.

In the 19 games Ball and Williamson have played together, these home run plays have become routine. Ball has already found Williamson for a basket 12 times from behind half court. They are like a backyard football duo who’ve made an agreement to go long whenever possible.

“It’s crazy,” Williamson said after a Feb. 28 win over Cleveland. “Right before the game, I looked at Lonzo and said, ‘I’m just letting you know I’m running. If you throw it, I’m going to catch it.’ He took that literally. He started bombing them.”

Chemistry between Lonzo and Zion will be a fun thing to watch when NBA action eventually resumes.

Pelicans, the final road team on last night’s schedule, head home

Yesterday, in news that materialized very quickly, the NBA season was put on hold, after the conclusion of last night’s games. And the final game on the schedule, start time-wise, was a Pelicans vs Kings matchup in Sacramento that wound up not being played. Here’s the New Orleans Times Picayune reporting:

The New Orleans-Sacramento matchup was supposed to be the final game before the NBA’s indefinite suspension kicked in, but the Pelicans had concerns about referee Courtney Kirkland, who had officiated one of Gobert’s games two days earlier. They remained in their locker room during warmups, and just as the game was about to start, the NBA decided to cancel the game.

They headed to the bus, had a meal and then eventually boarded a flight, which arrived in New Orleans a little after 5 a.m.

In a statement, the Pelicans announced they support the NBA’s decision to suspend the season and that they are working with health officials outside the organization to figure out the best course of action to deal with the coronavirus.

While we’re now in a waiting period for the NBA to resume — and that will take at least 30 days, if not more — we’ll keep posting fun basketball content each day. Some coronavirus-related items, because unfortunately that’s necessary, but mostly fun bball stuff, as usual.

Injury update on Pelicans forward Kenrich Williams

New Orleans Pelicans forward Kenrich Williams, who has missed the last 18 games of the 2019-20 season due to right lower back soreness, received an injection to treat pain and inflammation over NBA All-Star Weekend. The injection was performed by Dr. Rey Bosita at the Texas Back Institute.

Williams will be re-evaluated by the team in one week.

The Pelicans are 23-32 this season, which is the 11th best record in the Western conference.

Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram named NBA Players of the Week

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown and New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram have been named NBA Players of the Week, for games played December 23-29, 2019. With Brown as the Eastern conference Player of the Week and Ingram from the West.

It’s the first time in Brown’s four-year career he’s received Player of the Week honors.

Brown, 23, averaged a team-high 27.0 points on 62.2% shooting (57.9% 3-PT), 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steal over three games at Toronto and at home against Cleveland and Toronto. He was the only Eastern Conference competitor to produce at least 25.0 points on 60.0% shooting throughout the week.

The fourth-year forward reached the 30-point mark in both of Boston’s victories, including a career-high 34-point performance on 13-of-20 shooting (5-10 3-PT) against the Cavaliers on Dec. 27. Brown scored 30 points (76.9% FG) the previous game on Christmas Day in Toronto, marking the first time in his career he’s produced 30+ points in consecutive games.

Brown is the first Celtics player to receive Player of the Week honors since guard Isaiah Thomas did so in Feb. of 2017.

In 27 games this season (all starts), Brown is averaging 20.6 points (51.8% FG, 40.0% 3-PT), 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 33.6 minutes played. He’s one of four NBA players averaging at least 20.0 points on 51.0% shooting in 2019-20, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMar DeRozan.

Ingram helped lead New Orleans to a 4-0 week while averaging 25.3 points on .493 shooting from the floor, including .542 from three-point range and a perfect 1.000 from the free throw line, as well as 7.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals. The fourth-year pro finished the week ranked fourth in the NBA in total points scored (101), was one of four players to average at least 25.0 points while shooting over .450 from the field and over .500 from three-point range (of the four, Ingram held the highest FT%), and was one of just two players in the NBA to average at least 25.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals. Ingram led the Pelicans in scoring three out of their four games, and assists twice. On Christmas Day, Ingram connected on a career-high seven three-pointers at Denver, setting a new NBA Christmas Day record for three-point field goals by an individual.

Ingram becomes the eighth player in franchise history to earn Player of the Week honors, joining Baron Davis, Jamaal Magloire, Chris Paul, David West, Greivis Vasquez, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. It is the first time in Ingram’s career he has earned Player of the Week honors.

In 30 games this season, Ingram is averaging 25.3 points (10th in NBA), 7.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.0 steals.

Lonzo Ball shines, Pelicans win 4th straight game

The Pelicans on Sunday faced a badly-injured Rockets team that was without James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Clint Capela. But no win is automatic in the NBA. Work must still be put in. But the Pelicans have a bit of a flow lately and handled business. Here’s the New Orleans Times Picayune reporting:

The Rockets were forced to insert Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon into the starting lineup and dust off other little-used pieces. Somehow, their skeleton crew still set off fireworks.

Houston hit 15 3-pointers, but New Orleans countered with 18 makes of its own from behind the arc to pull out a 127-112 win. A sizzling Lonzo Ball hit seven 3s, a new career high, and E’Twaun Moore scored 25 points off the bench as the Pelicans won their fourth game in a row.

New Orleans, which outscored Houston 41-19 in the fourth quarter, has ripped off five wins in six games. It is now just 3½ games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Ball played perhaps his best all-around game in a Pelicans uniform, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

For much of the season, the story of the Pelicans has just been wait-and-see until Zion Williamson is eventually healthy enough to make his NBA regular season career debut. And yes, that’s still the big season-long picture, but lately, New Orleans is playing solid basketball.