Second Line Celebration
After disastrous season, Pelicans look ready to party
The New Orleans Pelicans 2018-19 season was a disappointment and one the franchise would, likely, like to put behind it as soon as possible. Not only did the Pels miss the postseason a year after making it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs, in January, the face of the team, Anthony Davis, who can become a free agent after next season announced he wouldn’t sign a five-year, $235.5 million supermax extension to stay with the team and requested a midseason trade.
Davis made it clear he wanted to join the Los Angeles Lakers and superstar LeBron James, arguably the biggest name in basketball right now.
For as bad as the regular season was, however, the Pelicans fortune appears to have made a complete turn to the positive.
Immediately after the season owner Gayle Benson removed the team from under the wing of Mickey Loomis, who was essentially overseeing operations for the Pels and New Orleans Saints. His focus will solely be on football now. She also relieved Dell Demps of his duties as general manager.
Faced with rebuilding the front office and the roster, Benson hired David Griffin to serve as executive vice president of basketball operations and, run the franchise.
Priority one became trying to convince Davis the team is moving in a positive direction and get him reconsider his trade demand and stay in the Crescent City.
Then blind luck struck the team. With just a 6 percent chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery, the Pelicans landed the No. 1 overall pick. It is presumed by most that New Orleans will select Duke University phenomenon Zion Williamson.
Suddenly, a team with seemingly no direction became one with a ton of potential.
If there is any way the Pelicans could take the court next season with Davis and Williamson in the front court and Jrue Holiday in the back court, they would have a nucleus of talent that should draw other role-playing players to the Big Easy.
Two weeks ago, the team hired Trajan Langdon to serve as general manager. Langdon, a former Duke star, previously served as assistant general manager for the Brooklyn Nets and general manager of the team’s NBA G League affiliate – the Long Island Nets for the three seasons. He was named the 2018-19 NBA G League Basketball Executive of the Year after Long Island tied for the NBA G League’s best record (34-16).
“We are very pleased to welcome Trajan and his family to the New Orleans Pelicans,” Benson said. “Our priority is to build the best basketball team both on and off the court. This is another positive step that puts our organization in position to be successful.”
“From the moment I met with Mrs. Benson and her team, it became clear that her commitment to the success of our franchise is absolute,” Griffin said. “This is one more very clear sign of that commitment. Trajan is a tremendous talent and shares in our vision of what it means to be a part of the Pelican family, on and off the floor. We are excited to add he and his family to our leadership group as we continue building upon that vision.”
To his credit, Griffin hasn’t given up on Davis. This week, he met with the player and his agent in Los Angeles in an effort to recruit him to stay. While, seemingly, nothing has changed Davis’ mind yet and any deals would be made after the NBA Finals conclude in the next two weeks, the prospect of playing alongside Williamson, who many believe to be a generational talent, and the front office changes Benson has made could convince him that he and the team have a positive future together.
While a Davis-Williamson pairing provokes dreams of an NBA title, if Davis holds fast to his request the Pelicans should be able to ask for a king’s ransom for him in return. The Lakers have the third overall pick in the draft, and they could package the selection with current players on their roster in exchange for Davis. That, of course, would allow the front office to use draft picks and free agent signings to build a supporting cast around Williamson.
An exodus of talent last offseason, sliding down the conference rankings and a midseason trade demand from the star of the team made the 2018-19 season often feel like a funeral for the Pelicans. However, New Orleans is renowned for celebrating and “putting the fun in funerals.” The start of the 2019-20 season has the Pelicans in prime position to put together a winner, break out the parasols, and begin a second line celebration.