10 Things We Learned From Zion Williamson’s NBA Debut

Almost eight months after the New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and the right to select Duke’s Zion Williamson, the chosen one finally made his NBA debut in a Wednesday night game against the San Antonio Spurs. Media converged on the Smoothie King Arena, ESPN assigned its grumpiest broadcast team of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and Zion was in the starting lineup at power forward. He started slowly, and the game the game was sloppy at first — and Van Gundy was ignoring the game and talking about hot dog eating records early on. 

But in an electric stretch of the fourth quarter, Zion put up 17 points, three rebounds and two assists to remind everyone exactly why he’s the most hyped NBA prospect since LeBron James. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in just 18 minutes, and while the Spurs held off a furious Pelicans comeback, it felt like Zion was the winner of the night.
Here’s 10 things we learned from Zion’s debut:

1. Nine months off makes you rusty: Zion’s last competitive basketball game was March 31 of last year, not counting the earthquake-interrupted Summer League game during which Zion didn’t play in the second half. You could see it in little things, like his five turnovers, some from simply mishandling passes on the move. But he also got comfortable by the fourth quarter, grabbing rebounds, finishing lobs, hitting teammates for easy buckets and knocking down effortless threes from the top of the arc. After two straight threes, he had perhaps his most impressive play, missing a layup against Jakob Poeltl, but using his speed and strength to zip around Poeltl, rebound his own miss and put it back. Not only did he get more comfortable throughout the game, he got far more comfortable through the fourth quarter when coach Alvin Gentry let him stay in the matchup for an extended stretch.

2. The Pelicans are going to have tremendous spacing: We knew that Zion could have similar gravity to Giannis Antetokounmpo, with defenses forced to pack the paint to stop him down low. Gregg Popovich, a pretty smart NBA coach, had defenders dropping way back on Zion, daring him to shoot. And while the Pelicans had trouble knocking them down, Zion’s gravity led to a lot of open shots on the perimeter. New Orleans is already third in the NBA in three-pointers — and fifth in percentage — and that should only improve. Especially if Zion is drilling outside shots with ease like he was in the fourth quarter.

3. Zion took a lot of outside shots during rehab: Zion had never made more than three three-pointers in a game before Wednesday night, when he hit four in a row in a fourth-quarter explosion. Clearly his restrictions on running didn’t keep him from putting up outside shots. Yes, his shot looks flat, but he’s shooting it with tremendous confidence. And if a defender is playing off him, it doesn’t matter if the shot has any arc to it, because there’s no one there to block it.

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Originally Posted on Yardbarker | By Sean Keane  |  Last updated 1/23/20

PELICANS ‘FULLY ANTICIPATE’ ZION WILLIAMSON WILL PLAY THIS SEASON

More than two months after New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson underwent knee surgery, the star rookie continues to make progress in his rehabilitation and the Pelicans reportedly still expect him to make his debut this season.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Williamson is scheduled to begin contact drills within the next two weeks, a key step in his recovery from surgery on his torn meniscus.

According to the report, New Orleans won’t place a firm timetable on Williamson’s return to the court, but the organization “fully anticipates” that he’ll return this season.

While the rookie was scheduled to miss only six-to-eight weeks when he first had surgery, the Pelicans have used the additional time to work extensively with the 19-year-old on his dietary habits. Furthermore, New Orleans is helping Williamson learn how to walk and move in ways that will allow his 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame to move far more smoothly with less strain on his ligaments and bones.

The rookie sensation has yet to make his debut in the regular season, but he’s certainly closer to making it happen than a few weeks ago. While the recovery process has been extensive, the Pelicans (9-23) can afford to take the long-term approach with their star.

Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Matt Johnson  |  Last updated 12/27/19

https://www.yardbarker.com/nba/articles/pelicans_fully_anticipate_zion_williamson_will_play_this_season/s1_12680_30903110

Anthony Davis requests trade from Pelicans, won’t sign extension

Anthony Davis has said all the right things publicly about wanting to remain with the New Orleans Pelicans and help the team win a championship, but the five-time All-Star has finally run out of patience.

Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday that Davis has informed the Pelicans he will not sign an extension with them and would like to be traded.

The Pelicans could offer Davis a five-year, $240 million extension this summer, and they also have the ability to pay him nearly $90 million more than any other team if and when he becomes a free agent following the 2019-2020 season. However, previous reports have indicated that Davis is not going to simply follow the money.

Davis is just 25, so the Pelicans would probably prefer to build around him rather than unload him — even if they are 22-28 and on their way to missing the playoffs. But if Davis doesn’t care about their ability to offer more money and has no intention of signing an extension, they may have no choice but to trade him.

There will be plenty of teams interested in acquiring Davis, who is having yet another dominant season with 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. As his agent specified, Davis wants to go to a championship contender. He reportedly has a wish list of four teams he would like to play for, though one of them probably would not provide him an opportunity to win now.

By: Steve DelVecchio

Original Article

25 questions heading into the second half of the NBA season

1. Should the Pelicans trade Anthony this season or this summer?

The Pelicans are in 12th place in the Western Conference, and it’s time they start thinking about trading Anthony Davis. If they deal him this season, the Lakers might be willing to part with three of their four young assets (Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart). The 76ers might be willing to dangle Ben Simmons, too. Heck, the Warriors could even offer Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

If New Orleans waits until the summer, the Celtics will be eligible to acquire Davis (a provision in the CBA is preventing them from doing so this season without including Kyrie Irving) and could offer a package including Jaylen Brown and their war chest of valuable future draft picks. The Knicks could offer their unprotected 2019 first-round draft pick and Kevin Knox. The only downside to waiting for the summer is that if Davis demands a deal to a specific team, the Pelicans lose all their leverage. Lots to consider in the Big Easy, and none of it is all that promising.

2. What does the Lakers starting lineup look like this spring?

The best-case scenario includes LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A lineup with those two could win the title. The next best scenario probably involves James, Bradley Beal and whichever two youngsters remain. This lineup could hang with any team in the league but is probably an underdog in the Conference Finals and Finals. The worst-case scenario would be if they make no major moves at the deadline because their current lineup likely has a Conference Finals ceiling and it’d be malpractice to waste a year of LeBron’s prime, like when the team has a number of trade chips.

3. Which teams mortgage their futures at the deadline?

Out West, the Pelicans are sure to be in the middle of everything, as they hold the crown jewel in Anthony Davis. Yet there’s a chance the Pelicans hold onto Davis and make a big trade of their own — we know they were in the mix for Jimmy Butler earlier this year. Everyone knows that the Rockets and Lakers will be looking for deals too. The Kings are desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, so keep an eye on them as well.

Out East, any of the top five teams could justify pushing their chips in and try to capitalize on the Warriors’ perceived vulnerability. Also, keep an eye out for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat — they’ve straightened things out as of late and have been trying to land a blue-chipper ever since LeBron James left.

4. Does Michael Jordan deal Kemba Walker?

The conundrum of Kemba Walker: He means everything to the Hornets and wants to remain the face of the franchise, yet they can’t compete with him on their roster. He’s not quite elite enough to carry Charlotte deep into the playoffs, yet he’s too good to not carry the team to a .500 record. With no cap room (maybe you shouldn’t have maxed out Nic Batum, MJ!) and hardly any trade assets (maybe you shouldn’t have turned down four first-round picks to draft Frank Kaminsky, MJ!), Michael Jordan needs to seriously consider trading Walker for some future draft picks and/or cap relief if the Hornets ever want to quit toiling in mediocrity.

5. What do the Blazers do at the trade deadline?

The Blazers are having another solid season. They’re 25-17 and have an average offense and defense. They won’t miss the playoffs, but they probably won’t make it out of the first round if they don’t make a move at the trade deadline. Is this the year they break up the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt? How does the passing of owner Paul Allen impact the team’s previously unwavering loyalty to its dynamic backcourt? Would the Wizards ever consider a Bradley Beal for McCollum plus an unprotected 2020 first-rounder swap?

6. Which teams should blow it up at the deadline?

A couple of teams that are teetering on the brink of falling out of playoff contention should seriously consider blowing up their rosters by trading away assets for future draft picks and high-upside prospects. The most obvious team is the Washington Wizards. At 17-25, no John Wall for the rest of the year and no cap space, the team should absolutely be looking to trade Otto Porter and his massive contract, Markieff Morris and his abrasive attitude and even Bradley Beal if a team like the Lakers offers multiple prospects and draft picks.

Just above Washington in the standings, the Magic, Pistons and Hornets are all fighting for the eight seed. If any of them falter, they’d be obvious “tank” candidates. In the West, everything is still congested in the standings, but the Grizzlies and Pelicans will want to listen to offers for their respective stars if they’re on the outside looking in a month from now.

7. Do the Bucks have enough to compete for a title?

When LeBron James was 24 years old, he won his first MVP and led the Cavs to a league-best 66 wins. He was so transcendent that the team didn’t think it needed to improve a roster with Mo Williams as its second-best player at the trade deadline. Everyone knows how that worked out for Cleveland — the Orlando Magic caught fire in the Conference Finals and upset the Cavs.

Milwaukee Bucks fans should be scared to death of history repeating itself with Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. Giannis is also 24 years old and an MVP front-runner, and he’s leading a surprisingly good Bucks team to the top of the conference as the deadline nears. While the Bucks have better secondary options than the 2009 Cavs had, their current roster is probably another scorer and versatile forward away from being threats to win it all.

8. Are the Raptors finally a legitimate title contender?

These dinosaurs are legit. Unlike past years, they have a roster built for the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard is back to being the Kawhi Leonard of old (albeit, a little better on offense and a little worse on defense). Danny Green is having his best season in years. Same goes for Serge Ibaka, whose switch to small-ball center appears to have triggered a Benjamin Button-like reverse aging in his body. Kyle Lowry is second in the league in assists, too.

And who could forget Pascal Siakam — wow, where the hell did this guy come from? In his third season, he’s made the jump from solid defensive presence off the bench to potential All-Star and two-way terror on the court. He’s always sprinting, making offensive players uncomfortable on defense and pushing the envelope on offense — just making winning plays all over the court. He’s like Toronto’s own mutated version of Draymond Green. If you haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out on the best spin move in the NBA.

9. Are the Houston Rockets still contenders?

James Harden probably answered this one at Golden State last week where he put on one of the most impressive performances of his career. His three-pointer between the outstretched hands of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was the climax point of an on-going, 15-game stretch in which he’s averaging over 40 points per game. We know Harden will keep stuffing the stat sheet, but we also know that he’s prone to wear down in the playoffs if another teammate isn’t there to lighten his load. Can Chris Paul get back on track once he returns from his hamstring injury? Does Houston trade for another shot creator at the deadline?

10. Are the Nuggets a legitimate title contender?

Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets’ meteoric rise to the top of the Western Conference has been one of the biggest surprises of this NBA season. Jokic is proving to be a one-man elite offense, as the Nuggets have been able to withstand significant injuries to a number of their key players, including Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton. Even if they sputter at some point during the second half of the season, they should finish with a top-four record in the West. The question then becomes what is their ceiling this season with a roster comprised mostly of players with little to no prior playoff experience? A safe bet is that they’ll win their first-round series and then lose a close battle in the second round to a more experienced team like the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder or Lakers. Regardless, the future is bright in Denver.

11. Have the Thunder quietly built a defensive machine to upset the Warriors?

With Paul George playing at a first team All-NBA level this season and Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant playing excellent two-way basketball, the Thunder might be the team best equipped to take down the Warriors. Notice I didn’t mention Russell Westbrook? That’s because the Thunder are often winning games in spite of Westbrook. While he is taking two fewer shots per game and has recommitted himself to defense (leading the league in steals), his shooting splits and shot selection are abysmal. He’s a key reason why OKC has the worst field-goal percentage in the NBA. It’s so frustrating because this team could absolutely steal some games from the Warriors in a series (they’re 3-2 vs. Golden State since acquiring Paul George) with its defense and overwhelming athleticism. However, Westbrook has to be a much more efficient player for the Thunder to take down Goliath.

12. Can the 76ers avoid a chemistry catastrophe?

There are layers to this one. For starters, the relationship between franchise cornerstones, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, is somewhere between “working partnership” and “icy.” It’s probably closer to the latter right now after their recent rebounding collision and Embiid’s subsequent freak-out. If that weren’t enough to worry about, Jimmy Butler is apparently already comfortable dressing down head coach Brett Brown in front of teammates about his role in the offense. Some teams can excel amid chaos like this; others fall victim to it. Will the Eastern Conference’s most talented team straighten things out for a long playoff run? Or will it implode from within?

13. Do the Pacers have enough offensive firepower to win the East?

It may come as a surprise to the casual fan, but the Indiana Pacers are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference this season. They’re currently in third place and have the NBA’s third-highest rated defense despite missing their star, Victor Oladipo, for 11 games this season. Their defense and plethora of excellent role players will keep them in every game come playoff time, but can Oladipo carry their offense enough for them to make a deep run? Look for the Pacers to add some more scoring pop at this year’s trade deadline.

14. What is the Clippers’ ceiling?

How many players do you think a casual NBA fan could name on the Clippers? Three? Four? Despite having no star power, the Clippers are 24-16 and in fourth place in the loaded Western Conference. This is no longer a cute story about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts — this team is legitimately good. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are all good players and have destroyed unsuspecting opponents this season.

How good are they? Can they win a playoff series? It’ll depend on the matchup and whether they pick up a better two-guard (Avery Bradley stinks now) and rim protector (Gortat isn’t cutting it). They could probably take down any team without an MVP-caliber player in a seven-game series, so if they play the Spurs, Blazers or Jazz in the first round, they’ll have more than a puncher’s chance to advance.

15. Will Jaylen Brown or Gordon Hayward get back on track?

If someone told you that Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward were averaging only a combined 23.6 points per game, you’d probably assume that the Celtics were having the season from hell. Fortunately for Boston, the “Marcuses” (Morris and Smart) have stepped up their respective games and covered for Brown’s and Hayward’s struggles. The team is comfortably in fifth place in the top-heavy Eastern Conference and will always have a chance in any playoff series with Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and the Marcuses playing well. However, if the Celtics want to compete for a title, they’ll need at least one of Brown or Hayward to start playing better. Both have shown some signs of life recently, but an occasional good game won’t suffice come May and June.

16. Do the Jazz have another magical second half in store?

Quin Snyder has been a second-half miracle worker in his tenure as head coach of the Utah Jazz. Last season, after a 17-24 start to the season, the Jazz ripped off a 31-10 record the next 41 games and rode that momentum to a first-round upset over the Thunder. At 20-21 through 41 games this season, Snyder will need to once again work his second-half magic to get Donovan Mitchell and Co. back on track.

17. How does DeMarcus Cousins fit in with the Warriors?

As they attempt to three-peat and win their fourth title in five seasons, the Warriors are struggling with mental and physical fatigue. Even when they’re at full strength, they seem as vulnerable as they’ve seemed since Kevin Durant joined the team. That could all change when DeMarcus Cousins makes his debut. Will the Warriors be rejuvenated by their “new toy” and find new ways to throttle teams? Or will Cousins’ overwhelming but unnecessary offensive talent hurt the team’s on-court chemistry? Boogie’s commitment to defense could ultimately dictate this one.

18. Can Steph Curry really go 50-45-90 again?

Remember when Steph Curry won the first-ever unanimous MVP in 2015-16 and forced us to recalibrate how basketball was going to be played moving forward? That season he averaged 30.1 points per game and joined Steve Nash as the only players to ever join the 50-45-90 Club (FG percentage-3FG percentage-FT percentage). Well, he’s doing it again this season. Right now he’s averaging 28.9 points per game on 48-44-91 shooting splits. (And he’s been in a slump lately too.) Thanks to the equally ridiculous seasons guys like James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are having, hardly anyone seems to be noticing how insanely well Curry is shooting this year.

19. Can we hand Luka Doncic the Rookie of the Year, already?

Barring injury, the answer is yes. Doncic has been a revelation in Dallas and is must-see television every time he steps on the court. He might even get voted in as an All-Star Game starter. And while he shouldn’t be an All-Star starter, nobody should have any issues with him making the team because he’s averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game and absolutely has a case as being one of the 12 best players in the Western Conference this season.

20. Should the Knicks even bother bringing Kristaps Porzingis back this season?

If you recall, Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL just before the All-Star break last season. With a crappy roster in place and their sights set on Kevin Durant, the Knicks have been in no rush to get their young star on the court before he’s completely healthy. They are going to evaluate Porzingis in mid-February, but there’s a chance he doesn’t play at all this season.

Should he play? On one hand, it’d be nice to get him back on the court for about 10-15 games to help him get his rhythm and confidence back heading into the offseason — this is what the Pacers did with Paul George following his broken leg. On the other hand, with a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they might not want Porzingis winning games for them and screwing up their lottery odds.

Full 25

By Pat Heery

Pitino Kept Hornets From Coming To Louisville

Written by Jack Maloney at CBS Sports.com

After the 2001-02 season, the original Charlotte Hornets were looking to move. As we know now, they eventually relocated to New Orleans, becoming, at least for the time being, the New Orleans Hornets. What we didn’t know, until a recent report, is that the team nearly moved to Louisville instead.

In a deep-dive into the scandal surrounding the University of Louisville’s basketball program, Bloomberg reported that the Hornets had a non-binding agreement with the city burghers to relocate to Louisville, a move that would have come with a new arena.

Of course, that didn’t end up happening, and it was because of the efforts of Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich. Louisville’s then-head coach and then-athletic director worked together to block the move, because they didn’t want to share an arena with an NBA teamVia Bloomberg:

Around the time Pitino arrived, a group of Louisville businessmen and politicians were making a concerted effort to land an NBA team. In part, this was a play for economic development. Louisville could see how pro football and hockey helped revitalize Nashville. But it also came just as much from a desire for respect. The city burghers even had a nonbinding agreement with the Charlotte Hornets, which wanted to relocate. The plan centered around building a downtown arena that the Hornets and the Cardinals would share.

Jurich and Pitino had other ideas. They had no intention of sharing an arena with an NBA team—they didn’t even want to share the city with an NBA team. Louisville was theirs. David Stern, who was then commissioner of the NBA, recalls thinking, “If Rick Pitino doesn’t want us there, why are we going there?” The Hornets went to New Orleans instead.

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Pelicans Playoff Hopes Crushed In Loss

Written by Brett Martel at NBA.com

he Denver Nuggets aren’t done yet, as coach Mike Malone was happy to point out following a victory that tested the limits of his club’s offense and required about 30 seconds of good defense.

Danilo Gallinari scored 28 points, Gary Harris added 23 points and a pivotal late steal, and the Nuggets pulled to a half-game out of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with a 134-131 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

”It’s funny. A lot of people keep counting us out,” said Malone, whose team has rebounded from a recent three-game skid with two straight victories to stay on the heels of eighth-place Portland. ”People kind of give up hope. We haven’t. Everybody in that locker room is remaining positive, optimistic, and we’re going to play this out.”

Harris was the game’s most accurate shooter, hitting 10 of 12 shots, including both 3-pointers he attempted. But it was his instinctive athleticism on the defensive end that helped decide a game that came down the final seconds. With Denver leading by two, Harris stole Jrue Holiday’s pass intended for DeMarcus Cousins along the perimeter.

”I didn’t even see it. I just put my hands up and my hands hit the ball,” Harris said. ”We found a way to get a stop. That’s what it comes down to. We’re fighting right now to stay in this playoff race, so I was just happy to see us get the stops when we needed it.”

Anthony Davis had 41 points and four blocks. Cousins capped a 30-point, 14-rebound performance with two late 3-pointers, the latter to tie it at 131 with 30.5 seconds left. Holiday had 18 points and 13 assists, but turned the ball over twice in the last 30 seconds and missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

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Kings Trade DeMarcus Cousins To Pelicans

Written by Matt Moore at CBS Sports.com

In a shocking turn of events Sunday night, Yahoo Sports reports that Sacramento Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins has been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Cousins now unites with fellow former Kentucky Wildcat Anthony Davis in New Orleans to form a combination of two of the top five big men in the NBA. This is an absolute fleecing, as the picks are likely to vanish in value with Cousins and the Brow together. The Pelicans did not have to surrender star guard Jrue Holiday, any of their big men or talented wings like E’Twuan Moore. The Kings have gone from being sure of re-signing Cousins to a $200 million extension next summer to getting Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans’ expiring contract, Langston Galloway and a pick.

Let’s grade the trade.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 

RECEIVE: DeMarcus Cousins (C), Omri Casspi (F)

SURRENDER: Buddy Hield (G), Tyreke Evans (G), Langston Galloway (G/F), 1st-round pick (protection unclear), 2nd round pick

GRADE: A+

Are you kidding me? Did Dell Demps take Vivek Ranadive and Vlade Divac to Bourbon Street to complete this deal? How did they pull this off? Dell Demps was considered to be at least on a mild hot seat. The Pelicans were scrambling trying just to get over .500 and failing to do so, and everyone was saying they were a crime against basketball for failing to get Davis help with his incredible production.

Well, he got him help.

Keep in mind what the Pels didn’t give up here: Davis, Jrue Holiday, multiple first-round picks, E’Twaun Moore, Solomon Hill, Tim Frazier, Donatas Motiejunas. At the very least, Holiday should have headlined this trade, but because he didn’t, New Orleans has a talented two-way point guard to get the ball to his bigs. They add an MVP-caliber player who can dominate the game next to their MVP-caliber player who can dominate the game. They have the No. 3 and No. 6 big men in Win Shares this season. And they didn’t have to give up multiple picks.

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Pelicans Trying To Trade For Jahlil Okafor

Written by Marc Stein and Marc J. Spears at ESPN.com

The New Orleans Pelicans are trying to bolster their frontcourt and are in advanced talks with the Philadelphia 76ers to acquire ‎big man Jahlil Okafor, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that the teams were still negotiating ‎Monday in an attempt to complete the trade.

If the sides agree to go through with a trade, sources said, New Orleans is expected to send backup center Alexis Ajinca and a future first-round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for Okafor. A source told ESPN’s Justin Verrier that a 2018 first-rounder is being discussed.

No deal, though, had been agreed to as of Monday afternoon.

Philadelphia, sources said, is seeking at least one future first-round pick in exchange ‎for Okafor, who was selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft but has been on the trading block for months — along with fellow Sixers center Nerlens Noel — as a result of the Sixers’ glut of big men.

Fellow lottery picks Joel Embiid and Dario Saric have had strong rookie seasons in Philadelphia, which has increased the likelihood that either Okafor or Noel would be dealt before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.

The Pelicans have previously pursued centers such as Milwaukee’s Greg Monroe and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez in search of an offensive-minded frontcourt sidekick to star big man Anthony Davis.

“Obviously, at this time of the year all the GMs are talking,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Monday night. “In that situation right there it’s best that you guys ask Dell [Demps]. I don’t want to get misquoted or anything. Like I said, all the GMs are talking back and forth.”

USA Today was the first to report Monday that the Pelicans and Sixers were talking about an Okafor trade.

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Anthony Davis Goes Off In Debut


Written by Grant Hughes at Bleacher Reports.com

With a historically unprecedented opening-night eruption, Anthony Davis bellowed at the fickle basketball world that had forgotten him.

In the New Orleans Pelicans’ 107-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets, Davis did everything imaginable to reestablish his status as the game’s best young talent—a status he’d lost following a disappointing 2015-16 campaign.

He scored 50 points, snared 16 rebounds, gifted five assists, swatted four shots and swiped seven steals.

That has never happened before:

Davis was ultra aggressive, taking 34 of his team’s 92 shots. No other Pelicans player connected on more than six field goals, while Davis made 17.

He moved freely, showing no sign of the preseason ankle injury that, for a while, put his opening-night status in doubt. Working for space off the dribble, finishing at the rim, connecting on difficult in-between flips through contact—AD displayed everything, from everywhere, offensively.

So dominant and so clear was Davis’ scoring mentality, point guard Tim Frazier quickly developed tunnel vision, searching for AD whenever possible.

Frazier, pressed into duty by Jrue Holiday’s absence, had 11 assists on the night.

Defensively, Davis’ length and quickness were all the way back. Though he made a few positional mistakes, the lapses in attention and sporadic effort that contributed to a major step backward last year were gone. He was locked in, aggressive and committed on both ends.

Yet we’re here talking about a loss and, more dispiritingly, a possibly season-defining trend, as Scott Kushner of the Advocate observed:

All that statistical brilliance didn’t amount to anything because the Pelicans are too injured (again), too invested in talent that can’t help AD (as always) and too painfully lodged in a half-rebuild that shows no sign of producing a second star.

The lottery pick, Buddy Hield, had four points in 17 minutes. The biggest free-agent acquisition, Solomon Hill, had two points in 27 minutes.

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NBA Coaches On the Hotseat


Written by Preston Mott at Fanside.com

Being a head coach in the NBA isn’t as glamorous as one would think. While the job certainly has its perks, there are quite a few low points in this field as well — none of which may be lower than the job security.

Head coaches won’t last long in this league if they aren’t winning, and even then their job may not be safe. David Blatt was fresh off of a run to the Finals and leading the Cavs atop of the East at the time of his firing last season.

Out of 30 head coaches, an underwhelming total of four have been with their current teams for at least five seasons. The reality is that there are very few jobs these days with less security than being an NBA head coach.

With that being said, here are some coaches whose seat may become increasingly warm next season.

5. Alvin Gentry

The New Orleans Pelicans had high hopes under the first year of Alvin Gentry but failed miserably to meet those expectations. The Pellies recorded a disappointing 30-52 record last season — good enough to find decent talent in the lottery but bad enough to seriously question just how far away they are from reaching the playoffs again.

The biggest reason for the Pelicans’ disappointing season was out of Gentry’s control. The injury bug managed to sink its teeth into a notable portion of the roster last season, causing key guys such as Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Mr. Injury himself — Anthony Davis — to miss a significant amount of games.

Signing Davis to a max extension bought the Pelicans some time but they can’t afford to waste away Davis’s prime years. At some point the Pelicans must surround Davis with real talent.

E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill headlining as your big free agency prizes aren’t going to cut it. Perhaps Buddy Hield will blossom into a star player in the near future and ease the scoring load off of Davis’s shoulders. Either way, Gentry will be faced with the daunting task of getting this group back to the playoffs this season.

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