The Bird Calls: Play-In, Again

With their loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Easter Sunday, the New Orleans Pelicans finish the regular season with a 42-40 record and claim the ninth seed in the Western Conference. The Pelicans will host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday for the right to advance and face the winner of the game between the 7th-seeded Los Angeles Lakers and the 8th-seeded Timberwolves.

Oleh Kosel and David Grubb look back at a wild regular season that had its share of highlights, lowlights, and moments in-between. What do the Pelicans need to do to beat the Thunder and what does this season mean for next?

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunesSpotifyStitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @DMGrubb.


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5 thoughts on “The Bird Calls: Play-In, Again

  1. This was really excellent discussion. A few thoughts:
    1. Naji, Hayes, Kira and even Dyson were not the contributors we hoped they might be this year. Not by a long shot. JRich has been a disaster since the ASB. NO one seems to know their roles, and none have developed their skills. Part of that is on them, part is on the coaches.
    2. A lot of teams bolstered their rosters at the trade deadline. Lakers, Clips, Sactown. A mystery to me why the Pels were so reluctant to pull the trigger.
    3. Team is too comfortable with mediocrity. We need a winner..a dog. someone who sniffs blood and goes in for the kill.
    4. Team has rarely found a way to use Scar effectively. He is being used in the antithesis of a point five offense.

    1. 1. Both the coaching staff and the players have their failings. Role definition has been one of the most glaring problems with this team. Willie’s struggle to trust players has stunted growth for some.
      2. The Pelicans were reluctant because of the financial implications this season. It’s hard to imagine them not being active in the offseason.
      3. Who on this team has experienced real winning? CJ has been to one conference finals and that was in the bubble. It’s getting more and more rare to find players that are willing to “die” for a win.
      4. As long as JV is on the team, they have to use him offensively. They should understand his defensive shortcomings at this point, so his value comes when he scores. Having him out there and not getting touches makes no sense.

  2. 1) Naji stepped up his game. Dont knock his contributions. When BI was down and he was starting he was hooping. Hayes was a letdown and if you expected anything more..ive been warning yall every year. Kira, i don’t know if it was him or staff. He played decent enough to get more minutes then he did. Not sure what you expected out of Dyson. He was a project that wasn’t applauded for his offensive game before drafted. He exceeded most peoples expectations on defensive versatility, which is hard to do surrounded by people who play lackluster defense. His minutes with BI or CJ were very limited, so he was passing to people who weren’t the best offensively.

    2) 100% agree. I said then Jaxon and a pick should of moved for a useful 4-5 who plays D as primary skill set. Now even more needed since Zion isn’t coming back. We needed a 2nd Nance type, just higher on the D level. Graham for JRich was a good secondary move. Loss of Alvardo hurt Jrich. His early performances was because when Alvardo, him, and Naji were all in they would play off of each others energy and swarm… mix that with Dyson, Herb sprinkled in. When Alvardo was lost, he spent alot of time next to CJ…

    3) 100% also. BI getting there, but i spoke about his 4th quarter TO’s like a week ago which feel like they from careless dribbling… and he had more in MN. Cant knock the rest of his game though.

    4) SCAR… he needs to shoot more 3s… problem is when he does no one else rebounds. He is constantly taking 2 people on in the paint with no one else attempting to help. Would be nice if we had a 7 ft really athletic guy that could run the court…….. you know kind of like Jaxon, but that understands at 7ft you have to get rebounds……..and make more blocks in the paint.

    BI, Herb, Trey, Jaxon, Scar would be a size problem for any lineup… problem is Jax not playing to his potential. If be pulling CJ in those late mins if his shot wasnt falling and clamp down, play bully ball.

    ZION – Conditioning… i get that he hasn’t been able to do a lot with his legs…. but… if he is healed you cant convince me that the best conditioning isn’t getting him out there for spurts and if you got to sit him you do. Last year 15 mins a game of Zion and we prob won that Phx series. At this point I don’t care if he plays 5 mins a game in the play in… they need to figure it out. But they wont. He didn’t forget how to play basketball. Our playbook hasnt evolved. He can play minutes if he is healed.

    1. Can’t really disagree with much of what you have said. Naji was hooping in the middle of the season, but he doesn’t seem to do well off the bench. I think he gets a little stats oriented, and if he isn’t getting his touches and his points, he loses interest. Dyson was not a disappointment to me, in fact it ticks me off that he doesn’t get more minutes because his defense and his rebounding are much needed skills. For whatever reason, Willie seems to go hot and cold on Dyson. As for Scar, I put a lot of the blame on the staff. He can be very effective underneath, but giving him the ball 12 feet out and expecting him to back the ball down with his dribble is a mistake. They need to set baseline screens, or position players so he can’t be doubled easily. Like your post however.

      1. Yea 100% agree. I wanted to draft Dyson and spoke about it pre-draft in post. I said what we will get as a lengthy guy who can play D, control the ball and basically do what we wanted Lonzo to do. We got exactly who i thought we were gonna get. Though his rookie season ability to guard people like JJackson impressed me.

        I think both in Dyson and Kira, any shortcomings was Willie going hot and cold on them. I think they both brought a needed element that wasnt always used properly. Exactly what you said for Scar. I blame the coaching as he did need more touches and he was many times ignored in good positioning. Also his stretch ability as i said originally was never utilized right, mainly due to no one else rebounding.

        For Naji i dont think it was as much stat problem as an energy effort problem. He fed off who was around him and i bet if someone pulled stats on line up breakdown for him his best numbers was when he was in with people who put forth most effort. He had good play off the bench too.. but that died completely after Alvarado and nance went out.

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