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NBA buzz

Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - December 16, 2020 - 12:00am

The Pelicans

CEBU, Philippines — The world’s most popular and expensive exhibition games had started inside empty arenas.  Because it is more of a spectacle showcasing the hidden talents of reserves, most of the multimillion-dollar stars are content on the bench cheering and coaching their second stringers.

But for other teams, specially those with younger lineups, cohesion and chemistry is important that they are going full force with their stars.   The wins and the losses don’t matter in exhibition games but what matters most is how players approach and react to game situations and the adjustments needed.

With a new coach and an improved roster, the New Orleans Pelicans could be making a deep run for the playoffs.  Stan Van Gundy, whose last job was TV analyst for TNT during the NBA’s quarantine bubble, is now calling the shots for the Pelicans.

Van Gundy had coaching stints with the Miami Heat (2003-2005), the Orlando Magic (2007-2012) and the Detroit Pistons (2014-2018) before taking a broadcasting job.  He did well with those three teams, bringing the Heat to the Conference Finals in 2005.  With Orlando, SVG’s Magic faced the LA Lakers for the 2008 Finals.  He guided the Pistons to the playoffs in 2016.

A two-time All-Star Game head coach, Van Gundy is now with his fourth team, and in these abnormal times, he must wear a mask during games, like every other coach in the league, a new regulation which was not implemented in the Orlando bubble.

The Pels’ potential starting lineup for the season looks strong with Steven Adams, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson up front with Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball manning the backcourt.  Completing the rotation will be youngsters Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Williams and veterans Eric Bledsoe, JJ Redick and Willy Hernangomez.

With a new and bigger contract as an incentive, Ingram should maintain his All-Star form and based on his performance the other day, he’s on a roll.  A Zo to Zion connection is fun to watch but aside from that, they must improve on their free throw shooting.   Limited in offense but doesn’t need the ball to be effective, Adams paired with Zion makes them the strongest frontcourt in the NBA, figuratively and literally.  Even a LeBron James in full throttle will have second thoughts going thru them.

Van Gundy’s effective coaching style could lead the Pels and their young score to a post season run and with a Draft capital in their stock, New Orleans in the long run will go far in the years to come, barring injuries.

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