“Loyalty to one sports team is pretty hard to justify,” comedian Jerry Seinfeld reasoned in his famous monologue. “Because the players are always changing, the team could move to another city. You’re actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it. You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.”
So which players are wearing Pelicans clothes these days? With all the roster turnover New Orleans has seen this offseason, that’s an excellent question. The Pelicans in their post-Anthony Davis incarnation look nothing like the team that graced the Smoothie King Center in years past, boasting a myriad of fresh faces including newcomers Eric Bledsoe (acquired from the Bucks last week), Steven Adams (formerly of the Thunder) and coach Stan Van Gundy, fresh off a stint in the TNT broadcast chair. Gone are the likes of trade casualty Jrue Holiday and free-agent defectors Derrick Favors, E’Twaun Moore and Jahlil Okafor.
Rather than maintain a semblance of continuity, New Orleans cleaned house, shuffling the deck with 20-year-old prodigy Zion Williamson as its new franchise centerpiece. That’s right, Williamson, who has played all of 24 games since arriving as the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, is currently the longest-tenured Pelican (hat tip to Reddit user U/322KPM for uncovering an all-time knowledge bomb). Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram landed in New Orleans shortly after Williamson’s Pelicans initiation, coming to the Big Easy as part of the return package for Davis. Sharpshooter JJ Redick joined the fold around that same time frame, flocking to New Orleans during last year’s free agency.
Davis’ departure necessitated a rebuild, which continued last week when the Pelicans dealt Holiday to Milwaukee, abruptly ending his seven-year tenure with the team. Before bolting to Phoenix as a free agent, Moore had also been a franchise fixture, logging four seasons in Pelicans threads.
There will be growing pains, but with a promising young core of Williamson, Ball and Ingram (the latter a first-time All-Star this past season), New Orleans should, at the very least, be an entertaining watch in 2021.