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Random thoughts/notes on the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans, following the Pelicans’ 128-115 home win Saturday.
1. As you know, the Pelicans walloped the Lakers without Anthony Davis. Anyone remember a couple years ago when the heavily favored Cavaliers went to New Orleans and lost to a Davis-less Pelicans team?
2. In that game, forward Terrence Jones had his way with LeBron James, scoring at will and putting together a career night. Jones was out of the league nearly a year later. (He has spent this season in the G League, before signing a 10-day deal with the Houston Rockets last week.)
3. In this game, James was booed heartily whenever he touched the ball. He had a nice night (27 points, 12 assists), but questioned his team’s preparation afterward. “It’s how you approach the game every day, how you think the game every day,” he told reporters. “It’s how you play the game, prepare for the game. It’s not even like when you get to the arena. It’s like way before that. It’s the most important thing in your life at this time.”
4. LeBron signed on with a young, inexperienced team that had been going nowhere and struggled defensively. Now he seems upset his teammates are young and inexperienced and struggle defensively.
5. Wherever LeBron goes, there he is. And as I’ve written time and again, this year’s Lakers are nothing more than the Cavs of the last four years. Only not as good with no chance of reaching the Finals.
6. Meanwhile, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry defended the decision to sit Davis, who had played the previous night against the Indiana Pacers. “If you’re looking along the lines of having any significance because we’re playing the Lakers, that had nothing to do with it,” Gentry said. “If we were playing the Baltimore Claws, we would sit him out that game too, OK?”
7. Gentry will now always have a special place in my orange, round and dimpled heart for mentioning the Claws.
8. For those who don’t know, the Claws were a team in the old American Basketball Association — sort of. They were actually supposed to play in the 1975-76 season, but folded after just three exhibition games. In lieu of being paid, the players were given equipment and furniture from the Claws’ offices. Dave Robisch, a center on that team, went on to play in the NBA, including stints with the Lakers (1977-79) and Cavs (1979-80).
9. Yeah, I know. I need to get out more.
10. With or without Davis, the Pelicans are a scrappy bunch. The backcourt of Jrue Holiday (27 points) and Elfrid Payton (14) is vastly underrated. Holiday prefers playing shooting guard and will now be able to do that after Payton’s return from injury.
11. Also, forward Cheick Diallo wasn’t supposed to be much of a pro. But he is coming around in his third season out of Kansas. He scored 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. (He also swatted two Brandon Ingram shots.)
12. Oh, and former Lakers forward Julius Randle scored 24. Remember, the Lakers made no attempt to re-sign Randle in free agency. “It’s not personal because there are players and coaches over there that I have a great relationship with,” Randle said. “But to get a win against old teammates is always cool.”
13. The Lakers (29-30) are now 3.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth playoff spot in the West. They are 1.5 behind the Sacramento Kings for ninth. They are just one game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are also just three games ahead of the Pelicans (27-34), who have no desire to make the playoffs.
14. Translation: Playoffs or not, Lakers coach Luke Walton is toast after the season. He will almost definitely become a candidate in Cleveland.