A Winning Team

New Orleans Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

 

Let us now pause to bask in the glow of young men and their athletic feats and glory.

No, no, no – not those guys. Not Joe Burrow and all that LSU stuff. I mean – well done and all that – but that’s all over now. No more Tigers, no more Saints. And so New Orleans hits that long lonely slag, those arid months of no football.

It might as well be winter.

Oh wait, it is winter. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to cheer about, or for, around here. Because quietly – very quietly – in the building next to the Superdome, a group of young men have been performing their own feats of, well…not quite glory. At least, not quite yet. But our beloved New Orleans Pelicans are starting to look like future contenders.

Admittedly, very quietly.

Remember them? In case you’ve forgotten, they’re our NBA basketball team. And somebody’s got to sing their praise. Root, root, root for the home team and all that. And I guess that somebody is me. Because I really like these guys.

Like Sally Field at the Oscars, I really, really like these guys. (Google that one, kiddos.)

In the age of the superstar super teams, we’ve got a bunch of no-names hustling like mad at the Smoothie King Center, trying to make something of themselves, of this team, of this franchise, of this city.

Yeah, I know. This is a football town and always will be. Who Dat and all that. And truthfully, I was never an NBA basketball fan until we got our own franchise back in 2002 – then called the Hornets. But here’s a couple things about that.

First of all, a family of four can go to a game and have hot dogs and Cokes – and maybe even enough left over for some Dippin’ Dots – for under $150.

Try that the next time the Atlanta Falcons come to town.

Plus, NBA games are a mad assault against the senses. It’s like a rock concert, a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party and an IMAX movie all rolled into one. If you’ve never been, trust me on this: There’s never a dull moment.

Never.

And that’s what happens off the court.

The NBA, with its fashion-forward thinking and hip hop sensibilities has learned how to capture the imaginations – and attention – of kids. I mean, I love Drew Brees – who doesn’t? – but do kids go to sleep at night wishing they were dressed like him? Had hair like him?

OK, maybe that wasn’t fair, but you get the point.

As far as our guys go, they’re a bunch of rooks, newbies and nobodies trying to make names for themselves. And most of them are still kids themselves. (At least, if you’re my age, they’re kids. Which basically means anyone under 25.)

We’ve only got two guys in their 30s – JJ Reddick (34) and E’Twaun Moore (30). We have nine players under 25. Hell, we’ve even got two teenagers – and they might be the two most exciting players on the roster. (The freakishly athletic Jaxson Hayes, and the apparent – yet still untested – heir to the NBA throne, Zion Williamson.)

In a universe occupied by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, the Greek Freak and The Beard, our players are dwarfed in terms of reputation, history and dynasty. And, well, success. But just wait.

As of this writing, the Pels are a meager 15-26. Nothing to write home about. (Or maybe even a blog post about.) But they’ve won seven of their last ten and are starting to wear their big boy pants to the games now.

And they’re a ton of fun to watch. Without any marquee stars on the roster (yet), they move the ball around a lot, run like crazy and play like their futures are on the line.

Because they are.

Hell, even Lonzo Ball has turned out to be a stud. Who knew?

Watching the Pels is the closest thing to watching college basketball in the NBA. And that’s probably because most of them are still college-age. And every basketball fan knows that’s where the action is. (And aside from the fact that five players on the team went to Duke, they are otherwise all fine young men of character and promise.)

So check ’em out while you can. While you can still get in and out of a game for a couple of twenties. While they’re still running young and wild and free. Because everyone knows: Success ruins everything in the NBA.

Just ask Chris Paul.

Wait…Chris who? (Google that one, kiddos.)

And no, this was not a paid Public Service Announcement on behalf of the New Orleans Pelicans organization. (Although, you guys know where to find me if there are any free tix hanging around.)

It’s just the words of a fan. A home team fan. A fan who sees great promise – and a lot of spirit and love of the game – in his home team.

And as the legendary Saints coach Jim Mora famously remarked: “Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?” OK, maybe not this year. But as the eternal offer of hope – or is it delusion? – goes around in these parts: Just wait until next year.

 

 

Categories: Me Again

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