Offense to Defense
Jarrett:“Keep shooting that sh*t, man.”
NEW ORLEANS – After an unexplainable loss versus the Orlando Magic at home on February 27th, the mood in the Smoothie King Center was filled with gloom. The uncertainty was as thick as cold grits. The look on the Blender’s stewards dressed in gold jackets uttered displeasure. The media room was so somber that I had to take a step outside as we waited for BI & CJ’s post game media session.
As players and team staff walked by with their catered meals on their way out of the Smoothie King Center, I was greeted by a couple of players. One in particular, Herb Jones. The second year player out of Alabama just played a rough game. Although he finished with a modest 10 points, he shot 33% on 9 shot attempts. Also, Paolo Banchero finished with 29 points with huge buckets down the stretch for the Orlando Magic to leave with a victory.
As Herb approached with a look of self-displeasure, I told him to “Keep shooting that sh*t, man.” His response, didn’t surprised me. “Most Definitely!” as we dapped up, and he kept it moving.
He seems like a pretty self-aware player. I’m sure he knows he was shooting 20% from 3 in the month of February. I’m sure he’ll be able to tell you that shooting isn’t his strongest basketball skill. It seems like his most valuable skill is his instincts and at that point in the season he didn’t trust it.
I believe the offensive slump had been negatively impacting Herb’s superpower; his defense. But as you know, defense is a team identity. Herb has said he models his defensive instincts after NFL Hall of Famer and Louisiana native, Ed Reed (possible relation *shrugs*). Imagine if Ed Reed didn’t play alongside Ray Lewis and the defensive mentality of the Baltimore Ravens. He’d still be a really great player, but would we look at him the same?
Following the loss to Orlando, the bayou birds went on the road to face the Portland Trailblazers. Without Dame Lillard, the Pelicans were able to experiment. Herb Jones was allowed to initiate some of the offensive possessions and was being used as a screener in PnR actions. I believe this opened up space for driving lanes and space for BI who finished with a game-high 40 points.
The Tuscaloosa native is a good screener with the ability to play 2-on-1 when he catches it at the free throw line. He played the 5 in college and won SEC Player of the Year. Adding this wrinkle to the offense has sparked a sudden life against the Pelicans and in Herb Jones.
Here are some names & numbers for you: Luka Doncic (4-14), Kawhi Leonard (4-16), LeBron James (10-22). These All-NBA players and future Hall of Famers are being guarded by Herb Jones and he’s making their basketball lives difficult. With continuing performances like this, Herb Jones should be on EVERYONE’S all defensive team list. According to ESPN, the Pelicans are ranked 2nd in the month of March in defensive rating. This is a total 180 from being ranked 27th in the month of January.
Last night, the Pelicans held the lack luster Trailblazers to 35 points in the 1st half. Although the sprockets of the tank is in full force in Portland, Herb Jones was able to guard last year’s 9th overall pick, Shadeon Sharpe. Sharpe was averaging over 25 points over the last 3 games. Herb held him to 2 points on 3 shot attempts in 3 quarters.
The Pelicans visit Oracle Arena to face the defending champion, Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are currently 7th and sit a half game over the Pelicans in the western conference standings. This game can have huge implications moving forward. Golden State is 30-8 at home and the Pelicans are on a 5 game winning streak.