I’m genuinely excited for you guys. Your journey as “fresh out of the draft” New Orleans Pelicans fans begins in earnest last week. My sports fandom began early in life, so my allegiances were shaped around the same time I thought I could join GI Joe or that my super powers would kick-in eventually, leading to my invitation to join the Justice League. This is different for you. You get to go in with all the information and make this decision as a rational thinking adult capable of contextualising nuance and complex ideas. Actually none of that is true. You get to be a lot like me at 6-years-old – you’ve got one guy on the team that you really like and you’re going to run with it.
Buddy’s there, you’re a Pelicans fan. Good enough. Fill in the blanks later.
Consider the tipoff of the Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas as your freshman orientation in this process. We’re here to get you prepared.
i. You Have Anthony Davis
This is the most promising part of this entire experience. Even among the NBA’s good players there are stars, All-Stars, Superstars and franchise solidifying transcendent players. You have one of latter. As a fan, you’re walking into a situation with one of those guys attatched to your franchise, which is the easiest way to ensure you’ll be in the conversation for the next decade.
The collective assumption of most NBA analysts is that LeBron and Steph will eventually have to cede control of the league over to Davis once the Pelicans front office builds the right team around him to challenge the Western Conference juggernauts. Buddy is a key part of that effort to build that team.
For a shooter, there’s no better compliment than a player who commands a double team and for a rookie coming in with the expectations of a No.6 pick, there’s no better head start than laying alongside transcendent talent. Disclaimer: There’s a strong likelihood that I will never utter an objective word about Anthony Davis after what he’s done for Kentucky basketball. You people are so lucky.
ii. Buddy HAS To Play a Major Role
The Pels shot 36 percent from three last year and as as average as that sounds expect it to be worse this year. Their top shooters were Luke Babbitt, Toney Douglas, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. Even for a completely marginal shooting team, the Pels are worse off than they were a year ago after both Gordon and Anderson left for Houston via free agency, Babbitt was traded to Miami, and Douglas was waived. So if you see Buddy chucking up shots in Vegas like he was still at Oklahoma, it’s because winning, losing or playcalling is all irrelevant – it’s all about getting Buddy ready for this role. While we’re at it….
iii. Summer League Doesn’t Matter
The are only two people on the Pelicans Summer League roster that you need to remember, Buddy and Chieck Diallo. Nobody else matters, the numbers don’t matter, the wins and losses don’t matter. What matters is that Summer League is when we get our first look at the rookies and to see if the second year players “get it.” They play in practice jerseys for God’s sakes, how seriously should we take it?
iv. You Will Go Mad with Frustration at Tyreke Evans (If He Stays In Nawlins)
Tyreke Evans has been an absolute mystery for the last seven years. Coming out of Memphis Evans was supposed to give us the diet version of Lebron James – a versatile guy that can play three wing positions. He looked like it in his rookie season when he averaged 19.5 points , 5 rebounds and 5.6 assists en route to winning rookie of the year.
Since then he’s developed into one of the most polarising figures in the NBA because we still have no idea what to make of him. The numbers looked promising but we eventually took a closer look to realise they were hollow based on his usage rate and efficiency numbers. In the middle of a semi-rebuilding phrase There will be nights when you love Tyreke Evans, there will be others when you question whether he works on his craft at all (You’re guaranteed to wonder this every time he pulls up for three).
He’s your greatest friendemy in this franchise.
v. Temper Expectations…You’re Rebuilding
With the expectations the basically world has on Davis, naturally those expectations are intertwined with the fate of the franchise. This time last year the Pelicans were a trendy pick to make the leap in the Western Conference to follow up on a 45-37 and playoff berth. That picked looked less trendy last season with an injury plagued year and a 30-52. Buddy fills an immediate need but this team didn’t address an upgrade at small forward and will need more shooting.
When you were a lottery team and your biggest free agent signings were Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore…you’ve got a ways to go
vi. You Used to be the Hornets
If you’re a casual observer and the first time you heard of a team called the Pelicans was on draft night when they selected Buddy, it’s ok. That’s because….years ago there were no New Orleans Pelicans. In 2002 the franchise was established as the New Orleans Hornets when the team relocated from Charlotte under then owner George Shinn.
After two seasons in Oklahoma City due to the Hurricane Katrina fallout, they returned to New Orleans full time in 2007. The mascot switched to the Pelicans in 2013 and in the strangest part of this entire sequence, the Hornets name, history and records from 1988–2002 were returned to its original city to be used by the then-Charlotte Bobcats franchise, which subsequently became the Charlotte Hornets in 2014.
vii. The New Name Makes Sense
Before you judge the nickname and make fun of it, your team was almost called the Brass or the Krewe. The Pelican is actually a logical name choice given the bird’s presence and importance to the ecosystem of the area, but none of this matters to fans right? How many great lakes are there in Los Angeles? How many velociraptors have you seen in Toronto since Chris Bosh left?
viii. You Had Chris Paul
This gives you a seat at the sports fan stronghold – The “What If Poker Table.” As a Pelicans fan you get to toss out this argument in barbershops all the time – because, what if we actually kept CP3. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, still all-NBA first team player, and most importantly a member of the Banana Boat team which immediately qualifies you for round three of the LeBron sweepstakes.
Also, CP3 is a free agent next summer, so your team gets to take a shot at that “coming home” thing all the kids seem to love nowadays. By the way, the all time top five team in your franchise’s history has to include Paul, Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, David West and Anthony Davis.
ix. You Once Played In the East
Late in the season when the Pelicans are making a playoff push and fighting for that eighth spot in a rejuvenated juggernaut Western Conference, you’ll long for the days when Paul Silas and Tim Floyd guaranteed your season ended in a first round playoff exit. Ante up with this at the “What If Poker Table”
x. Smoothie King Center
This is the actual name of the arena where the Pelicans play their games. Feel free to imagine the fun Bahamians will have with that one