Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It
DALLAS, TX – In the year of our Lord, 2006, 4 men from Atlanta created a song that swept the nation in a polar vortex. DEM Franchize Boyz instituted a rhythmic movement from left – to – right, followed by a thundering sharp cohesive snap of the fingers on every third count. The music forced you to “lean wit it” then “rock with it”, and the Pelicans need to do the same.
The New Orleans Pelicans currently have a record of 24 -17, placing them in the 7th place in the Western Conference, which ties the bayou birds with the Dallas Mavericks in the standing. Dallas holds the 6th position because of their record within the division.
After a rough start to the season, the team is seven games over .500 and 5-3 in January, and they’re starting to find their groove. “I think we’ve been [sticking to the team’s principles] outside of that Laker game… Outside of that, we are playing great basketball. We’ve been consistent for over a month now, and we want to continue to stack those days”, said CJ McCollum.
But that begs the question, what are the Pelicans principles? What are the disciplines the Pelicans will hang their hat on?
Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations – David Griffin spoke about what the team needs to improve during the Pelicans versus the Denver Nuggets’ broadcast. “We’re excited about the growth we’re making. I think where we obviously have room to improve is in clutch minutes. But no matter what segment of the season you go from: November 14th, to the last 15 games, to the last seven games. We’ve got the best net rating in the league, but we don’t have the most wins in the league in that period of time. We need to figure out a way to convert talent into winning.
That’s true. The Pelicans are uber talented. During the in-season tournament, NBA analyst for ESPN – Zach Lowe stated, “[the Pelicans] are a sleeping giant.” The Pelicans have a good roster with stars like Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum. The roster has defenders like Herb Jones, Dyson Daniels and Larry Nance. The team has shooters in Trey Murphy, Jordan Hawkins and Matt Ryan. The team also has energy players like Jose Alvarado and Naji Marshall. And finally, they have a player in the middle like Jonas Valančiūnas, whom can score and rebound consistently.
So, what’s the issue?
The Pelicans don’t know who they want to be. They have multiple styles. Some nights, this team plays with the necessary energy and effort, stifling the opposition with their top 10 defensive prowess and scoring in transition. Other nights, they turn the ball over, playing horrid transition defense and not executing in the half court, resulting in late shot clock contested middies.
In essence, they are leaning when they should be snapping and snapping when they should be rocking.
The latest Dallas mini series was an embodiment of the Pelicans’ season. On Saturday night, the Pelicans, without CJ, BI, Zion and Trey Murphy, beat the Mavericks with a barrage of elite shooting from Jordan Hawkins, more specifically shooting 6/12 from three, and ending the game with 34 points, leading the team to a win. The Pelicans started off the game hot, and were able to stifle the Mavericks’ offense with seven steals and four blocks. Herb Jones was able seal the game with a block on Kyrie Irving.
Jonas Valančiūnas was a force in the 4th quarter, scoring 7 of his 14 points in the finals minutes. Coach Willie Green presented Valančiūnas with the game ball commemorating his 11,000th NBA point.
The sanctioned rematch on Martin Monday told a different story. The calvary returned for the Pelicans, but – so did Dereck Lively II for the Mavericks. Although Zion and CJ combined for 50 points, Kyrie Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 83 points to lead Dallas to a win.
The Pelicans opened the game very lethargic for the 1:30 pm start, but went on a 19 -2 run to start the second quarter capturing the lead with 8:55 left in the 1st half. This contest was closely matched from then on. The intensity was high, including multiple faceoffs between the teams. Zion Williamson says, “I live for shit like that, I can’t even lie to you. I love shit like that” with a jovial smirk on his face.
Zion’s energy has been more noticeable than ever. I believe a switch has been flipped ever since the melee in Vegas. Also, the offense has been better for Zion. The readdition of Trey Murphy III and the implementation of movement shooting has allowed Zion to see less traffic at the rim.
Without a prototypical point guard, the Pelicans have allowed their movement shooting to create space and match up problems. Although, in a loss, the Pelicans might’ve found a late game offense that can work.
An inverted horns set was fruitful for the Pelicans against the Mavericks, with Zion as the initiator and CJ with Larry at the nail. Although Zion is the initiator, CJ is actually the decision maker. With his ability to shoot off the catch and dribble, he forces defenses to make a decision and possibly help at inopportune times, especially with Larry’s ability to screen, pass and finish at the rim.
Postgame, CJ stated, “We got some really good possessions out of it. I thought we got good looks… It’s all about continuing to get better at it and continuing to hone in on it.”
The Pelicans are 6-9 in close games this season. They may have suffered a loss on Monday, but I think they might have figured out the answer to their clutch problems.
The Pelicans should lean into their offensive abilities and rock with the results.