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New Orleans Pelicans executive vice-president David Griffin said a lot of things last week as his fourth season with the franchise finished with no playoffs for a third time.
The 42-40 regular season finish was his first winning season. New Orleans’ best record before that was 30-42 in his first season in 2019-20. There has been nothing better than ninth in the Western Conference the last four seasons.
Griffin admirably took much of the blame, as he should. Much more progress was expected by now from the man who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title in 2016 as general manager.
“I failed miserably,” he said at one point while discussing a Pelicans’ season besieged by injuries as well as incorrect information relayed by the front office about those injuries.
In addition to budding – but limping – superstar Zion Williamson missing 54 games with a strained hamstring, star forward Brandon Ingram missed 29 with a toe contusion, and guard Jose Alvarado missed 21 with a fractured shin.
David Griffin Understands Pelicans Fans’ Anger
“If I’m a fan of this team, I’m really disappointed, and I’m angry,” he said.
The question is how angry will Saints/Pelicans owner Gayle Benson and those close to her be about it over the coming weeks.
The Pelicans are extremely talented, though young. And they could be great, if they could ever get everybody – or even almost everybody – on the court for longer than, say, the Mardi Gras holidays.
ZION WILLIAMSON PUTS ON DUNKING DISPLAY BUT DOESN’T PLAY
“The talent is clearly there,” said veteran forward Larry Nance Jr., who missed the Pelicans’ play-in loss last week to Oklahoma City with an ankle injury. “I think in that locker room is the No. 1 seed in the West. But obviously, dependability is the issue.”
The NBA Playoffs continue tonight with Atlanta at Boston (7 p.m., NBA TV), New York at Cleveland (7:30 p.m., TNT) and the Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix (10 p.m., TNT).
“We’ve got to get better right now,” said Griffin, who may not have that much time. “We are not good enough right now, and we know it. And at the same time, 27 teams in this league would trade their roster for ours and our draft picks for theirs.”
Well, maybe not quite 27. But he does have a point. The Pelicans are scheduled to have the 14th pick of the first round in the next NBA Draft on June 23. They also have the rights to a Lakers’ first round pick in 2024.
But then he got a little goofy – goofier than when he said Zion Williamson shouldn’t have played in the play-in game last week. Obviously, not the whole game, but he could have played, whether he was practicing or not. You remember, “We’re talking about practice,” Allen Iverson so famously said. “Not a game.”
Griffin’s next comment makes one wonder if Griffin didn’t want Williamson playing so he could just get this disastrous, injury-marred season done with already. That is understandable in a way.
“The whole season was chaotic,” Griffin said when discussing the myriad of injuries.
Were Pelicans Playing To Win The Game?
“When you’re winning let’s say 50 games, you don’t tend to really examine the root cause of why you’re not winning the games you most care about,” he said curiously. “Nobody, when you’re winning 60 games is going to walk in your coach’s office and say, ‘Well, here’s what you’re doing wrong.’ Well, when you win 42 games and you lose to Oklahoma City in a play-in game, we can have those conversations. And that’s going to pay dividends for us moving forward.”
Benson can have “those conversations” with you, too.
And if the Pelicans had won 50 games this season and lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, surely the right people can examine why you’re not winning the big games. What is he talking about? Did he want to win only 42 so there is more of a sense of urgency. It is Griffin’s job to make sure there is a sense of urgency regardless of the win total.
When a team wins 60 games, a general manager or owner can walk into the coach’s office and say why you didn’t win more. Maybe overly exuberant fans would feel as if the Pelicans had arrived with such seasons, but management isn’t fans. Nick Saban examines what himself and his program need to better after he wins it all again and again.
David Griffin ‘Grateful’ Pelicans Didn’t Win 50?
But Griffin wasn’t done.
“We’ve got to get better right now, but I will tell you I’m also really, really grateful we didn’t trick this up, find a way to win 50 games, win one round of the playoffs and convince ourselves we’re better than we are,” he said.
Had you won 50 games and advanced in the playoffs, you would be better than you are. And you could build from that. Why is he “really grateful” to only win 42 so he can turn things around? It’s time to start “tricking” things up. Some teams win titles after “tricking” things up.
Had the Pelicans won 50 and advanced in the playoffs, the entire team would be looking to next year with more fire. Maybe some fans would think they are better than they are, but Griffin’s not a fan.
And think what a 50-win season would have done for ticket sales and overall good will in New Orleans? Do you know New Orleans NBA history, David?
The Pelicans Winning 50 Could’ve Done Wonders
The Hornets (2002-13) and the Pelicans (2013-23) have exactly one 50-win season – 56-26 in 2007-08 when the Pelicans won a playoff series for the first time.
Funny, Griffin accused Williamson of a misstatement when he said last week, “I can pretty much do everything. Things have gotten a lot better. Physically, I’m fine.” Then he strangely didn’t play against Oklahoma City.
At least Griffin did admirably admit that his franchise’s messaging was wrong concerning Williamson last week.
“The miscommunication is very largely our fault,” he said.
And that was clearly not the first time such a thing has happened with the Pelicans under Griffin.
Perhaps, Griffin needs the media coach to avoid “misstatements” more than Zion.
Would he have been “really, really, really” grateful had the Pelicans only won 32 games?