The Pelicans will begin a five-game Western Conference road trip on Friday night, kicking off a 12-game stretch that represents a “make-or-break” segment of their schedule, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate.
If the Pelicans perform well during those 12 games – which include matchups against Golden State, Portland, Oklahoma City, Houston, Denver, the Clippers, and San Antonio (twice) – it would send a clear message to ownership and management that the club can contend, says Kushner. The stretch ends on February 4, just ahead of this season’s February 7 trade deadline, so New Orleans should have a better idea by then of whether the team remains a buyer.
On the other hand, if the Pelicans struggle and slip further out of playoff contention during those few weeks, it would be “plainly irresponsible” for the team to trade another future first-round pick for short-term help, Kushner notes.
Here’s more on the Pelicans as they gear up for a crucial portion of their schedule:
- Even if the Pelicans slump before the trade deadline, there are no plans to make Anthony Davis available during the season, Kushner confirms. Still, the big man’s future remains a popular topic of speculation. Davis himself spoke earlier this week with Joe Vardon of The Athletic about how he tunes out those rumors, whether his situation has been a distraction, and what he wants out of his NBA career.
- In that conversation with Vardon, Davis also addressed a recent report that suggested money wouldn’t necessarily be a deciding factor when he weighs his future: “I never said money wasn’t important. Somebody asked me about money or your legacy. In that case, your legacy lasts forever. Your money comes and goes, but for me I want to build a legacy. In that case, if you have to choose between money or legacy, I think legacy wins every time, in my opinion. … I want winning to be a part of my legacy.”
- In a recent, wide-ranging Q&A with Larry Holder of The Athletic, Pelicans owner Gayle Benson spoke about the need to give the team “more time” to gel and touched briefly on the subject of Anthony Davis. “I think [the Pelicans] are young, and we’re going to invest more money and get the big players and do everything we can to keep Anthony here,” Benson said. “I really like what we have in place. I really like Anthony, but if he wants to leave, you can’t hold him back.” Benson took over as the Pelicans’ controlling owner when her husband Tom Benson passed away last year.
- The Pelicans’ lineup got on lift on Wednesday night when Nikola Mirotic returned from a month-long absence and looked healthy and productive in 22 minutes vs. Cleveland. However, after missing time due to his right ankle injury, Mirotic likely won’t cash in on any unlikely-incentive money for 2018/19. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details (via Twitter), Mirotic has three separate $250K performance bonuses ($750K total) that all hinge on him playing at least 65 games. If he misses two more games this season, Mirotic will fall short of 65.