Inspiring comeback shows these aren’t the same New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones (5) and center Jaxson Hayes (10) react to a play against Cleveland Cavaliers Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones (5) and center Jaxson Hayes (10) react to a play against Cleveland Cavaliers Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /

With Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart all out, the New Orleans Pelicans weren’t supposed to win against one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference.

Someone forgot to tell the Pelicans.

After going down 23 points in the first quarter, the Pelicans just kept chiseling away before finally taking their first lead of the game with just over three minutes left in the 4th quarter.

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The culture is changing in New Orleans, as this team absolutely does not quit or hang their heads after they get down. These aren’t the same New Orleans Pelicans and there are three big reasons why.

Willie Green is changing the culture of the New Orleans Pelicans

“Culture” is one of the most overused words in the NBA, but it applies to this year’s Pelicans, who look like a different team even though they’ve been shorthanded the entire season.

Willie Green was brought in to change what was seen as a lackluster team that didn’t always give maximum effort, and that is precisely what he has done.

He has his young team flying around, picking each other up, making the extra pass and most importantly BELIEVING that they can and should win.

Coach Green deserves a lot of credit for his job this season, as he’s had to navigate injuries, a bunch of new faces and a pandemic and this team has never stopped playing hard.

Last night’s win was actually inspiring and if you are anything like me you were jumping up and down every time the Pels made a play down the stretch.

The crowd was going nuts and the people of New Orleans are rallying behind this team, which you love to see.

Jonas Valanciunas has given the team consistency

Most people didn’t think Valanciunas would be a considerable upgrade over Steven Adams, but they were wrong. This is not a slight on Adams, who is also having a good season, but the Pelicans needed someone who could provide a consistent presence under the hoop night after night.

Valanciunas brings toughness, rebounding and most importantly, an offensive outlet when the Pelicans need a bucket. He’s added the three point shot to his repertoire and the New Orleans Pelicans can pretty much pencil him in for big minutes and a double double every game, which is something they desperately needed with Zion out.

Herb Jones has changed the New Orleans Pelicans

People laughed at me when I said that Herb Jones was going to be the Pelicans’ Draymond Green, but no one is laughing now. Jones was everywhere last night, literally defending the entire Cavaliers team on one end, then making play after play on the other.

Jones was often tasked with initiating the offense, especially in the second half, and he did a brilliant job, getting to the rim, finding teammates or finishing. He also hit a few 3-point shots, taking them without hesitation and his cuts to the rim are starting to be a weapon for the Pelicans on offense.

Jones is not only the best second-round pick this season, but should be a lock for the All-Rookie team if he keeps this up, as he is showing he is a lot more than just defense and energy.

This might not be the best New Orleans Pelicans team but it’s my favorite to watch, as they will not quit, and if they can ever get healthy, this is a team that can win a playoff series in the Western Conference.

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