No sign of the Pelicans: Zion, Ingram and a drifting team

The Pelicans do not raise their heads in the West and walk away from the playoffs. Zion has improved, but Ingram is lowering his level and the squad is not cohesive.


A real disaster. It's what the Pelicans are at this point in the season, right after taking a beating against the Timberwolves, the worst team in the Western Conference, and confirming that they return from the All Star break the same way they left. It seems impossible to raise a team whose problem is structural, which has names on the track and coaches of the stature of Alvin Gentry or Stan Van Gundy, good guys with whom circumstances have been able, the first already outside the franchise and the second watching From the inside, how a squad that is not his favorite really passes and to which he has to model everything possible to achieve scratch victories that leave him alive within a West in which (almost) everyone still has options, but where they move away already 4.5 games away from the playoffs, too great a distance that begins to rule them out along with the Kings despite the fact that, until now, they have managed to be continuously on the wire.

Diagnosis is not easy. The Pelicans have wickedness and talent to rebuild since the famous transfer of Anthony Davis, a farce that lasted almost a season, took out Dell Demps and Magic Johnson, the respective managers in the offices and finished how Rob Pelinka and a David could Griffin who arrived with a great reputation behind him but who has not had the expected success. And look who collected talent: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart arrived for Davis, the string of draft rounds has been expanded with the transfer of an institution in the entity such as Jrue Holiday, Zion Williamson was selected in the first place of the draft , and changed Gentry for Van Gundy hoping to hit the key, make Zion play and strengthen a team with little synchrony and little resilience.

The thing, of course, has not turned out that way. While the Lakers won the 17th ring in their history with Davis, the young people of Los Angeles have been left with nothing in New Orleans, that destination in which LaVar Ball, Lonzo's father, did not want his son to land. In the end, the huge Los Angeles market proved once again that the rings are won with the best players, and that the promises can end up certifying why they were or simply stay in that. And what last season, Zion's injury through, was a disaster that ended with a ridiculous performance in the bubble, this year more was expected from an entity that has ahead, among others, teams like Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavericks or the strangely good Spurs. All of them templates, a priori, more incomplete and worse than one that has a star who has just been All Star (Zion), another who was last year (Ingram), luxury veterans (Reddick), a center guarantees (Steve Adams) all positions filled and a coach who knows what it is to play the Finals (in 2009, with Dwight Howard's Magic) .

Bad defense, good Zion and problems of Ingram

On the track, it does not seem that an easy solution can be found to the enormous amount of problems that exist in a loose squad, aimlessly and that alternates almost brilliant moments with other strangers. They started 4-2, then added five consecutive defeats, re-entered the most absolute irregularity until they achieved four victories that improved the sensations and invited optimism. But after that brief streak, everything was diluted to the current record, 15-22, which takes them far from the playoff spots after an unmitigated loss to the bottom of the West, 30 points and in New Orleans. In other words, an utterly Pyrrhic disaster to start off on the wrong foot a second round in which stumbling cannot be allowed to make up for the poor start. But, even less, before drifting teams without aspirations like the Wolves, others with more expectations than results, but who have beaten them without palliative.

The Pelicans are headless on defense, and while they have the best offensive rating in history, defense is by far the worst ever. They receive more than 116 points per game, the third worst team in the Western Conference, they are the third with the worst percentage of free throws and the tenth in triples motivated by Zion, whose one-dimensional game makes the scheme in a certain way and does not favor the exterior flourishes. And they have the ninth worst nate rating, in addition to an unbalanced roster. Adams is a good starting center, but Jaxson Hayes' troubles have even opened the door for Willy Hernangómez, evicted in the early part of the season. The good news for the future is that Zion has shown that he is more than bland statistics: he has started to defend something and secure the rebound and his final stretch of the first part of the season allowed him to reach the All Star. In his second year as a professional, they are 25.5 points (with more than 60% in field goals but only 31.6% in triples) and may be the face of a franchise that continues to look to the future but is not capable to focus, for the moment, on the present.

Ingram is the other side of the coin and the Pelicans notice it. It already ended badly last season, with Zion's arrival on the slopes, but it has gotten worse this year. He is at 23.6 points per game and shoots better than last season, but he is sterile, he is not comfortable next to Zion, he fails in the clutch time and he defends much less than his abilities allow him. At the moment and with only 23 years old he has a long way to go, but he is showing that he is prepared to be a unique star and not share the limelight with someone who monopolizes both the game and his current partner, who forces him to play in a very specific way to fully develop their capabilities. Ingram is not comfortable and cannot find a spot on the court that maximizes the skills that led him to the All-Star Game last season. And Stan Van Gundy, hardened in a thousand battles, is not finding short-term solutions and we will see if they let him take them long, taking into account the impatience inherent in the current NBA, which prevents developing projects in a long period of time and requires immediate results.

And there are the Pelicans. Lonzo Ball has improved (14.4 + 4.1 + 5.1, with more than 38% in triples) and it is not the problem, but neither the solution. The lack of synchrony between veterans and young people, with almost no connection between the two generations, is brutal and nothing seems to work at a dangerous moment of the season, in which they can struggle to climb positions or lower their arms and look askance at the draft . But of course, young people have plenty and talent too, they just need to exploit it, leave regularity behind, start defending, solve the lack of synchrony between Ingram and Zion and correct the mental barriers that many drag from their time in the Lakers and that They have formed a way of seeing them that seems to last forever: a lot of talent that has not just been exploited. David Griffin in the offices, Stan Van Gundy on the court, Zion as a star ... the Pelicans have everything, but they have nothing. A team adrift.

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