The Grizzlies roll into the Big Easy tonight looking for their fifth straight win. And while the Grizz study up on The Brow, The Boogie, and the other Birds, you can get better acquainted with the team from New Orleans with our Five Questions series.
Today, Frank Spiro of The Bird Writes, SB Nation’s Pelicans blog, drops into drop some knowledge about the Grizzlies’ Tuesday night opponent.
1. First off, let's talk about the Boogie trade. What were your thoughts when the deal initially went down? How do you feel it's worked out so far, and how do you think it'll affect the team moving into next season and beyond?
Ah, the Boogie Cousins trade, my favorite subject. When the deal first went down I think emotions around the city of New Orleans could best be described as pure shock. No one ever thought in a million years that the Pelicans were contenders for Cousins, and when we got him for such a relatively small price, no one could understand why. I still don’t understand why, but we’re not complaining.
The Cousins trade made us instant contenders in the eyes of a lot of NBA fans, and I don’t disagree with that. When the team is working with him on the floor, it’s really working. Both him and Davis are getting great looks, but on top of that, the floor has started to open for the rest of the team. That being said, we always knew there would be a grace period after Cousins arrived.
Players are still figuring out how to play with one another, roles are changing, and sometimes we look like a lot of professional basketball players not trying to step on each others toes. That results in a lot of turnovers and isolation ball. That being said, there’s a clear difference watching this team pre and post trade; we clearly have the talent and major pieces to compete now. It’s clear that Cousins and Davis will perform at a high level night in and out for us—at this point, it’s a matter of who else shows up to the game.
When push comes to shove, we’ll really only know if the trade was good after next season, when his contract is up. Until then, New Orleans is blue in the face holding their breath to see if Cousins will be willing to resign with the Pelicans.
2. Alvin Gentry is about to wrap up his second year as the head coach of the Pelicans. What are your thoughts on what he's done with the team, and do you think he's on the hot seat?
There’s no two ways around it—Gentry might be the hottest coaching seat in the NBA right now. Gentry’s tenure as Pelicans head coach has been rife with defeat. Proponents of Gentry will say that he has gotten a raw shake of things, having teams that are constantly injured and don’t have time to gel. While this is true, it’s hard to not notice that the team just plain doesn’t show up sometimes. This is a team that has had some atrocious losses, including losing to the Lakers and Nets by 29 points. We’re overly streaky, often losing and winning multiple games in a row, and we are constantly (and I really mean constantly) blowing leads and not showing up in the 4th quarter.
Beyond all that, it is still unclear if Gentry and Cousins can exist in the same system. Davis is perfect for a Gentry system; he’s a physical freak who can run the floor and shoot. Cousins often times lags behind the fast paced style the Pelicans try to play. It’s unclear whether they could ever be a fit together.
I think the big deciding factor in what happens to Gentry will end up being what happens to our GM, Dell Demps. A lot of people thought he was a shoo-in to be fired after this season, but that was before the Boogie Cousins trade. I think if Demps stays, so does Gentry, but if Demps is gone he’ll be bringing his fast paced offensive guru with him.
3. I was pretty surprised (as I think were most people) when Casspi was cut after his injury. Do you think making that cut was the right move in the long term, or do you feel it was more a short-term decision?
I think Casspi was a victim of circumstance here. Yes, the Pelicans need more three point shooting, but what we really need are just more healthy players. With the way the Cousins trade went down we were big men heavy, and we needed the roster spot Casspi was occupying to be taken by a player that was going to have serious minutes. A lot of people were expecting us to re-sign Casspi once he was healthy again, but we didn’t have the cap space to match the Timberwolves offer. None of this mentions Jordan Crawford, who we picked up instead, who so far has been phenomenal for the Pelicans.
4. Going into Monday night, the Pelicans are 4.5 games back of the Nuggets for the last playoff spot in the West. With 12 games left, how do you think the team will approach the end of the season? Will they try to make a push until they've been mathematically eliminated, or will they shut some of their players down?
I think the rest of the season for New Orleans is pedal to the metal. The Pelicans are trying to win games, and they’re trying hard. I think for at least the next three games, coaches, fans, and players are all holding their breath about the playoffs. No one is expecting it, but in the back of everyone’s minds is that little Jim Carrey voice from Dumb and Dumber…So you’re saying there’s a chance?
I think the real reason the Pelicans won’t let up, is the organization seems to be treating the last 12 games of the season as a test run for next year. The team right now is playing for Gentry and Demps’ jobs. If we finish 4-8, they’re both gone. If we finish 8-4, they’ll probably stay. If we finish 6-6… who knows. Beyond that they’re using this time to figure out what pieces they still need to make this team work, whether Cousins is a fit, and how much they will be willing to offer Jrue Holiday in the off-season. The question still remains if he can be the third piece of this big three.
5. As far as tonight's game goes, where do you think New Orleans has the biggest match-up advantage against Memphis?
I think Memphis is New Orleans’ worst matchup! Gasol is the only big man in the league that has proven that he can consistently shut down Davis, holding him to 14 PPG and 33% shooting so far this year. I think when the Pelicans are at their best, they are designed to be the anti small ball lineup—Memphis is built in a similar way. The match-up I’m looking forward to most is Jordan Crawford versus the Memphis bench. Langston Galloway had some of his best games in a Pelicans uniform against the Grizzlies, and Crawford has a similar skill set, so I’m looking for him to pick up where Galloway left off.
Thanks again to Frank Spiro and the team over at The Bird Writes, and be sure to check them out for all things New Orleans Pelicans!