The 2013-2014 season didn’t go well for the Pelicans. Injuries crippled a team that many had picked to challenge for a playoff spot in a difficult Western Conference making the last half of the season a frustrating limp to the finish line. To try and help Pelicans fans get over things we here are Pelican Debrief are going to take some random looks back at great moments, plays, seasons and stretches in franchise history, starting today with a look at a pairing.
The goal of every NBA franchise is to build a roster and system that fits perfectly around their start player. What exactly that fit is differs from team to team, from the Pace and Space Miami Heat to the Grit and Grind Grizzlies, but having that identity makes a team able to reach its potential and ultimately makes for some fun and beautiful basketball. For New Orleans that group of players for Anthony Davis is still in the process of coming together but just a few years ago the perfect combination was in town.
From 2005 until 2011 Chris Paul and David West combined to make basketball memories for an entire generation of fans through a bunch of pick-and-pop jumpers, slithery drives and intensity. It was the perfect fit of two players that were so different coming together to make perfect basketball and something that was an important part of my immersion into true NBA fandom and geekdom.
On the surface things were simple. Paul would dribble around a West pick somewhere between the three-point line and elbow and read the defense from there. If West’s man stayed tight to him Paul would glide down the lane and finish at the rim with some artful layup or kick out to a shooter stopping up in a corner as help crashed down. If the big defending West came off and tried to level Paul off he simply dumped a pass of to his partner in crime who almost automatically knocked in the 16 to 18 foot jumper. When teams worried too much about the midrange jumper West rolled to the lane and Paul expertly found him for easy layups and dunks.
The two just had a unique chemistry that allowed them to flourish night in and night out for the Hornets.
It led to plays like this:
Or boxscores like this: http://es.pn/1hnWTho and this:http://es.pn/1kXTB3k
It wasn’t just the basketball related things that fit so well either. Paul, the small slight point guard with a penchant for annoying opponents always had West, one of the few true tough guys in the NBA, there to back him up if things got testy.
The pair reached their heights in the 2008 season when they reached the Western Conference semifinals behind the strong play of the duo. In the first round Paul averaged 24.6 points and 12 assists while West averaged 22.6 points and 7.4 rebounds to lead the second-seeded Hornets over the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks four games to one.
The ride sadly ended in seven games in the second round when the Hornets lost to the Spurs but again Paul and West shined with Paul averaging 23.7 points and 10.7 rebounds and West putting up 20.1 points and 9.3 rebounds to lead the team.
The two continued to make highlights for the rest of their time together but injuries to Paul and eventually West never allowed them to reach the heights they did that season before they eventually broke up with Paul leaving for the Clippers and West taking his talents to Indiana.
But the run was fun and memorable and something that makes me as a basketball fan smile every time I catch a replay of an old game. It also provides a glimpse of the future we hope to see with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday with a few more highlight dunks and playoff wins thrown in for good measure.