April 18, 2013
Walk into a battle with an arm in a sling, a leg in a cast, a patch over one eye and a face full of peach fuzz, and it’s pretty inevitable what will be the outcome.
In the NBA, the result is a 27-55 record in your last season as the New Orleans Hornets.
Mercifully, the season ended Wednesday night for New Orleans’ NBA franchise. It provided a handful of highs – a season sweep over Boston, a road win against the Clippers, the breaking of Denver’s team-record, 15-game winning streak.
But from the moment Eric Gordon’s injured quadriceps muscle prevented him from participating in training camp and opening the season, to the time Sacramento guard Marcus Thornton’s full body weight landed on Anthony Davis’ left knee in the 79th game of the season, and seemingly every week in between, one game-altering bump or another bruise was the team’s constant companion.
Gordon missed 40 games, Jason Smith was down for 30, Austin Rivers couldn’t answer the bell for 20 and Davis was a scratch for 18.
Contrast that with this: Four of Golden State’s five starters played at least 78 games, and the top two reserves played no less than 79, as the Warriors went 47-35 and advanced to the playoffs in the Western Conference. Or this: In Milwaukee, where the Bucks crept into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference with a 38-44 record, the five leading scorers played at least 71 games each, with four of them starting at least 54 games.
Do the Hornets need additions and a talent upgrade to the roster? Of course. But consistent availability sure wouldn’t have hurt the cause this year. Likely, the improvement from last season to this one would’ve been greater than six wins.
So that’s one of the things the New Orleans Pelicans will hope to have working for them next season. Even now, as we wipe clean the slate, we do so knowing that foundational parts are in place, beginning with Davis, whose promise appears to have no boundaries.
And we do so knowing that the sling, cast and patch will come off this summer, that there’s no reason to believe the Pelicans will limp into next season the way the Hornets limped through and out of this one. The physical battle should be more even and with that, the results, more favorable.