Buddy & The Brow
Davis and Hield give Pelicans strong foundation for growth
With the 2017 NBA All-Star Game fast approaching, basketball fans are looking forward to the second half of the season and the accompanying playoff race.
The New Orleans Pelicans are 10 games under .500 at 18-28. That puts them qualifies them for 11th best in the Western Conference, 21 games behind the first place Golden State Warriors (39-7). The good news for the Pels is that the top eight teams in each conference qualify for the postseason. In that regard, New Orleans only 2.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets (20-25) in the playoff chase.
New Orleans has a -2.9 point differential against opponents through 46 games. The Pelicans are scoring an average of 103.3 points per game compared to 106.2 by the opposition.
Injuries, and the delayed start of point guard Jrue Holiday’s season due to time off to deal with his wife’s brain surgery, through the first half of the season have had a major impact on the Pels’ winning less than 40 percent of their games. But in the last few weeks, the Pelicans have seemed to become a new team that could show promise in the second half of the season.
The league is taking notice, too.
This week the NBA announced two Pelicans will be featured in this year’s All-Star Weekend festivities.
Anthony Davis will be a starter in the 2017 All-Star Game, to be held in New Orleans at the Smoothie King Center on Sunday, Feb. 19. Additionally, rookie guard Buddy Hield was named a member of the World Team for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 18.
“It feels amazing. To be able to start, especially here in New Orleans, it’s definitely an honor. I’m going to try to be a great ambassador for the city and put on a show for them,” Davis said this week in an interview during Alvin Gentry’s radio show
Known for his unibrow, Davis made his All-Star debut in 2014, scoring 10 points on six field-goal attempts in just 10 minutes of play. He was selected an All-Star starter in 2015, but was unable to play due to injury.
“The first time I didn’t get to play as much, so I’m definitely going to try to put on a show for the city of New Orleans in this game,” Davis said. “Coach already told me every time I touch it to shoot it.”
The Rising Stars Challenge features 10 first- and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year NBA players from around the world.
In 45 games (25 starts), Hield has averaged 8.8 points (ranked fourth among rookies) while shooting .373 from three-point range, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 20.1 minutes per game. The Freeport, Bahamas native, selected sixth overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December after leading West rookies in scoring (10.6 ppg) and three-point field goal percentage (.478) and topped all first-year players in three-pointers made (33).
It’s hard to believe Davis, a five-year NBA veteran, and Hield, a first-year player, are both just 23 years old and have their best basketball ahead of them. Of late, the better NBA teams have been led by a trio of players. The San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and Miami Heat’s “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are prime examples. With two of the three seeming in place, that’s an exciting prospect for the future of New Orleans basketball.
All-Star Weekend festivities will be televised live by TNT from the Smoothie King Center starting on on Friday, Feb. 17
NBA Western Conference Standings
The Pelicans are currently 2.5 games back in the Western Conference playoff chase. The top eight teams in each conference qualify for the postseason. Standings through Thurs., Jan. 26.