What Could Have Been: The End of an Era in New Orleans


A mere 8 days ago, things were not looking all that bad for the New Orleans Pelicans. They had just taken down the Oklahoma City Thunder in dramatic fashion, and the Rockets, Jazz, and Kings, all of whom sit above them in the standings, appeared to be falling apart.

Playoff hopes, battered and beaten time and time again this season, were looking to creep back up into the light one last time.

Four games and four losses later, the Pelicans may have squandered their best chance at making a legitimate run for the playoffs.

Last night, they played host to the Utah Jazz. With about 3 minutes remaining the third quarter, the score was tied at 70, and it looked like it would remain close for the rest of the night.

When the fourth quarter was ready to begin, the Pelicans trailed 84-70. A slew of blocked shots and free throws fueled a 14-0 run to end the quarter, all but securing a victory for the struggling Utah team who had lost their previous 5 games.

Mar 5, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) waits for play to resume during the second half of the game against the Utah Jazz at the Smoothie King Center. Utah won 106-94. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Pels faced a similar fate against the Spurs just a couple of days prior. Up 81-74 with 6 minutes remaining against one of the best teams in the NBA, it once again looked like a statement was ready to be made.

Well, they certainly made one, and it’s one that has rang true for some time: this team cannot close out games.

The Spurs outscored the Pels 20-5 in those final 6 to put to rest any outside chance of an upset.

I can and will continue to watch every game with the confidence that the Pels have a chance to pull it out, regardless of the opponent. However, it has become abundantly clear that momentum is meaningless for this team, and stringing together wins over an extended period, which would be necessary for a playoff run, looks like nothing more than a pipe dream.

These late season struggles signal the near end of an era of New Orleans basketball that could have been.

Eric Gordon will likely leave New Orleans in free agency this summer after a turbulent, injury-ridden tenure. It is only fitting that Gordon’s run may come to an end from the sidelines rather than the court after re-fracturing the ring finger on his shooting hand against the Jazz.

Feb 27, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon (10) moves to the basket past Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) during the third quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Pelicans 112-110. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

I hate to see him back off the court because I have grown to actually enjoy rooting for him, but it was hard to expect anything more from the young guard.

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  • The departure of Gordon would mean that no asset acquired directly from the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade would remain in New Orleans. Austin Rivers was traded for Quincy Pondexter, who still remains on the team, but other than that, the remnants of Chris Paul in a New Orleans uniform are nothing more than memories.

    Gordon’s time in New Orleans is essentially an extended version of the story for this Pelicans season: expectations were high, but in the end, there was a lot left to be desired.

    After watching him play for four seasons, I can’t help but hope he eventually finds his place in the league. He appears to have matured greatly since infamously claiming that his heart was in Phoenix, and his scoring ability continues to impress.

    Secretly, I have a gut feeling that he is going to explode, in a good way, at one point or another throughout his career.

    Unfortunately, it likely won’t be as a Pelican.

    Feb 27, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) celebrates with teammates guard Jrue Holiday (11) and guard Eric Gordon (10) after scoring against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Pelicans 112-110. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    With imminent change on the horizon, it appears that Alvin Gentry is beginning to look towards the future of this team.

    After coming off the bench for a few months, Jrue Holiday may finally re-enter the starting lineup. “We have to start looking at Jrue as a starter some and playing him” Gentry said after the loss the Jazz, words that many Pelicans fans were impatiently waiting to hear for sometime.

    The season is all but lost, so I am all for experimenting with new things in these last 20 games. It may be tough to do too much with regards to lineups considering Davis and Holiday are the only core players that are guaranteed to return next season, but getting those two as many minutes together as possible is perhaps the most important developmental task moving forward.

    Feb 23, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) drives past Washington Wizards forward Jared Dudley (1) during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Ryan Anderson will likely be on the move as well, and if the last couple of games can tell us anything, it’s that the Pelicans are preparing for a Ryno-less future.

    Anderson has sat out the entire fourth quarter in two consecutive games now, and considering the lack of depth the Pelicans currently have, Gentry is likely using this time as an opportunity to see what else this roster has to offer.

    Hopefully Anderson has a few more moments in New Orleans because he has been a pleasure to root for, and will hopefully continue to be for the remainder of his career.

    This season was very much carry-over from the Monty Williams-era. The roster was nearly identical to last season, and a lot of old habits continued.

    But with Gordon and Anderson likely on their way out, and Gentry’s influence starting to set its feet, basketball in New Orleans is finally about to turn over a new leaf…..