I’m a firm believer that the basketball gods have a way of restoring the natural order of the NBA landscape.
Arguably never before had we come into an NBA season with the hierarchy of the league so unknown. The 2022-23 NBA season promised to have more parity than ever before.
And while the answer to the question of who will win the 2022-23 NBA title is still far from obvious, the basketball gods have subtly been pulling their strings to ensure that the natural order of things is restored – to ensure that the league standings have some semblance of structure.
That isn’t an awful thing for them to do. Just imagine how stressful it would be if we had 20 legitimate title contenders. In that instance, how would anyone ever be able to project anything? How would we know what teams to focus on? To keep up, we’d have to quit our day jobs and social lives just to guarantee that we were adequately briefed on each team that had a reasonable shot of bringing home the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Unfortunately, one of the casualties of the basketball god’s reorganization was our beloved New Orleans Pelicans.
Readers of this website have heard this story before. Once upon a time, the Pelicans were 23-14 with one of the best records in the conference and an All-Star Starter occupying a spot in their frontcourt. Once upon a time, they were true title contenders.
However, tragedy hit soon after. That superstar forward, Zion Williamson, strained his hamstring on January 2nd and hasn’t been in the lineup since. During that stretch, the team has gone 19-27 (that’s counting their play-in loss) without him.
In total, Williamson missed 54 games this year. But he wasn’t the only Pelican who succumbed to injury this season. His co-star, Brandon Ingram, missed 37 games. Their defensive ace Herbert Jones missed 16 games. Their defensive anchor Larry Nance Jr. missed 18 games. The heart and soul of this team, Jose Alvarado, missed 22 games.
Overall, only the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic had more man games lost this year than the Pelicans.
The most tragic part about it all is, to their credit, New Orleans never stopped fighting. For a time, it seemed fair to presume that Williamson would return shortly after the All-Star break. The team held on to this belief and kept marching along dutifully. That is until re-injury set him back a few more weeks.
Then, after a heartbreaking loss on March 17th that pushed the team three games below .500, the team put their rally caps on to win seven of their next eight. The overall morale was at an all-time high, and it seemed for a moment that a positive Williamson update was on its way. That update never came.
But even through all that, our Pelicans, they never gave up.
So, when the team’s deficit in their do-or-die game against the Oklahoma City Thunder increased to four points with less than ten seconds left in the basketball game, it was fitting that Brandon Ingram hit a cold-blooded three to make it a one-point game with four seconds left.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander proceeded to hit both his free throws to make it a three-point game with three seconds remaining. The relentless Pelicans had bought themselves one last opportunity. Hope was still alive.
And just like they had all season, every time the basketball gods filled our hearts with hope, they turned around and tore it right out of us. Here is how the Pelicans’ season ended.
I will say the basketball gods outdid themselves with the poetic justice on display on this final sequence. It truly was the perfect unfortunate ending to a tragic season.
The basketball gods did their job. Balance has been restored to a manageable level. All it cost was the Pelicans’ once-promising season.