New Orleans Pelicans forward Tyreke Evans dribbles against the Mavericks in February in Dallas. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, April 17, 2014 5:26 PM
The NBA playoffs are about to tip-off this weekend and once again the New Orleans franchise will be sitting it out.
A season of fresh hope that started with a new name and promise of a new direction is slinking off into the sunset quietly.
What follows will be another offseason of questions and a ping-pong ball to cast the team’s hopes on.
Last night the Pelicans ended the season with a meaningless game against the Houston Rockets, one of those 16 clubs that will be in the postseason.
The Rockets have made a quick turn around, becoming a contender again after a few seasons of false hope.
They show the Pelicans it can be done. Maybe even give them a blueprint.
As for the Pelicans, they have more than enough time to reflect on a season that was supposed to take a giant step forward and instead shuffled harmlessly into the history books.
While there were more bright spots than the past two seasons, the fact remains the Pelicans entered the season finale 16 games off the Western Conference playoff pace.
That is anything but making a playoff push.
They finished in the standings only ahead of Utah, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers, all teams that are thinking more about the draft than the postseason.
Which leads us to the next big moment in Pelican history — the draft lottery.
Where and who the Pelicans pick will be important as the franchise clearly has holes to fill.
The last two seasons New Orleans has done well on draft day. First it was Anthony Davis from Kentucky.
In his second year Davis became a young star in the league and looks as if he is somebody a franchise can be built around.
Last year a trade of picks brought Jrue Holiday to the Big Easy. Again, early returns were good.
Holiday averaged 14.3 points, a team-high 7.9 assists and just over four rebounds a game for the Pelicans.
More importantly, the club was 15-19 in the 34 games he played and looked like a second-half run was coming with experience.
But the 2009 first-round pick who was traded to Philadelphia for the rights to Nerlens Noel was lost for the season in January with a leg injury.
Noel missed the entire year, as expected, with an injury as well so it wasn’t like New Orleans gave away the future and this draft pick. The Pelicans did give away this year’s first pick in the deal, though.
The only way New Orleans gets a first round this season is if the club is able to draw one of the top three spots in the May 20 lottery. The top five are protected from Philly, but with the 10-worst records in the league it is the top three or bust.
So it is likely the Sixers will get the pick when all is finally finished. That shows just how much is riding on the lottery for New Orleans.
One of the top three means the franchise would have another big piece to its future. But no pick means no help coming.
New Orleans would then not pick until No. 40 overall and 10th in the second round.
Status quo could spell big trouble for head coach Monty Williams, who might earn an extra year because of the injuries and early improvement.
Then again, few NBA teams stand pat when a promising season collapses, injuries or not.
So Williams’ future is likely the first big decision by the front office.
After that, it is hope the lottery balls fall in the right place.
A long shot at best.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org