The pressure is rising in New Orleans after losses in DeMarcus Cousins‘ first two games with the Pelicans, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. Many observers anointed New Orleans as the favorite to grab the West’s eighth playoff spot after Monday’s trade, but the Pelicans were embarrassed Thursday at home by the Rockets, then faded late in Saturday’s loss at Dallas. They are now 3 1/2 games behind the Nuggets for the eighth spot with 23 games remaining. Cousins had a spectacular game in his debut with 27 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five steals and four blocks, but scored 12 points on just nine shots last night.
Pelicans commentator David Wesley says Cousins and Anthony Davis haven’t figured out how to co-exist on the court. “Right now, the spacing of the floor is not there,” Wesley said during Saturday’s game. “And with DeMarcus, Anthony, whoever is on the block that’s trying to operate, there are no lanes to operate with. There are no spaces right now to drive the basketball for the guards or the perimeter players. And they’re going to have to figure that out. This is [the] team they have.”
There’s more from the Southwest Division:
- Depth at the wing positions could be a problem in New Orleans for the rest of the season, notes Justin Verrier of ESPN.com. The trade for Cousins sent Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway to Sacramento, and Omri Casspi, who was acquired from the Kings, broke his right thumb in his first game and has been released. The Pelicans will have to get by with temporary acquisitions like Reggie Williams, who signed a 10-day contract Saturday.
- The Mavericks were ecstatic with their first look at Nerlens Noel, who was acquired Thursday in a trade with the Sixers, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. Noel, who hasn’t practiced yet with his new team, came off the bench Saturday with nine points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes. Dallas views the 22-year-old center as one of its building blocks, even though he will probably be used in a reserve role for the rest of the season. “Noel’s going to be the starting center here,” Carlisle said about Noel’s future role. “I do think he’ll get some starts this year. I just can’t tell you when or how frequently or exactly how it’s going to go. That’s the truth.”
- Picking up Lou Williams from the Lakers shows the Rockets are serious about contending for a title this season, writes Fran Blinebury of NBA.com.