NEW ORLEANS — The older I get, the thing I love most about sports - besides my favorite teams winning - is having hope.
Hope that my teams might win someday soon, hope that the people running my favorite teams know what they are doing, and hope that watching the actual games will be fun and will not be done out of habit or because I made a financial commitment to do so.
The New Orleans Pelicans are positively bursting with hope.
The Pelicans future has nothing but incredible, delicious possibilities. Just how bright is the Pelicans future? In five years, they will be more popular than the Saints in New Orleans.
Lots of you probably just spit up your lunch or are immediately rage commenting about this column on Facebook or Twitter. No team will ever be more popular than the Saints in New Orleans! New Orleans is a football town; the Saints are in our souls! No one cared about the Pelicans much even when they had a star player in Anthony Davis. Yes, I’ve heard all the reasons there is zero chance the Pelicans will never EVER be loved and supported in New Orleans more than the Saints.
I’m here to tell you, the confluence of events the last 100 days or so make it very possible the Pelicans will rule the New Orleans sport landscape in five years. Things change. Things some of us deem impossible come to pass. Who thought the United States would ever have both an actor and a game show host be President? Who thought the Jonas Brothers would rise from the dead to have another hit record? Open your minds to the possibility New Orleans sports is about to have a Titanic-sized shift
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The biggest reason the Pelicans are about to explode is Zion Williamson is going to change everything. He’s not a basketball star like Anthony Davis or Klay Thompson or even Kawhi Leonard, who just helped Toronto win an NBA Title. Zion is going to be a star that’s bigger than basketball. He’s going to be Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and LeBron James GIGANTIC. People who don’t even care about basketball will know who he is if they don’t already.
Anthony Davis is a great basketball player, but off the court he was as interesting as an Excel spreadsheet and as charismatic as my Keurig. The most interesting off-court thing he did the last five years in New Orleans was the choice of shirt he wore during his last appearance as a Pelican in the Smoothie King Center.
I bet lots of you remember he wore a ‘That’s All Folks’ t-shirt don’t you? I also bet you can’t remember one even remotely interesting thing Anthony Davis ever said besides “Trade me.”
Zion is going to be different. Zion will be an event. He’s going dunk, smile, and be the lead on ESPN anytime he does or says anything cool.
The Pelicans sold over 3,000 ticket packages the night they won the lottery and right to draft Zion. By the way, the Pelicans winning the lottery is a top 5 sports moment of my life. It’s my favorite NOLA sports moment since the Saints won the Super Bowl. How excited was I? I was a happy raving delirious lunatic.
Most of you are probably thinking, “That’s all well and good but how exactly are Zion and the Pelicans going to be good enough and fun enough to become bigger than the Saints?”
That’s where the Los Angeles Lakers come into our story. Pelicans Executive Vice President David Griffin pulled off magic. He managed to convince the Lakers to mortgage every asset they had through 2025 in order to acquire Anthony Davis. Griffin did this despite the trade market for Davis only having one team because Davis and his agent Rich Paul made it clear if the Pelicans shipped Davis anywhere but LA, Davis wasn’t going to stay there long-term.
The Pelicans control every Laker #1 draft pick through 2025 and Griffin got 3 interesting young players. I’m surprised Griffin didn’t demand Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka also ship the Pelicans the statue of Magic Johnson outside the Staples Center and the Hollywood sign.
Griffin still may do that as the Lakers apparently didn’t realize they need to have the Davis trade become official on July 30 and not July 6 as agreed to so they can have maximum cap space to add a third star. So now LA is scrambling to add a third team to the trade or may have to give the Pelicans MORE to get the extra cap space.
I hope Rob Pelinka sent David Griffin a nice Father’s Day card, because after the AD trade, Griffin is his daddy.
As New Orleans Advocate Pelicans columnist Scott Kushner brilliantly stated, “In financial terminology, David Griffin executed a textbook example of “shorting” when he agreed to trade Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers.”
I’m guessing the organization that wasn’t smart enough to know when the biggest trade of the last decade in the NBA needed to close might not be well run. Those draft picks in 2024 and 2025 when LeBron James is pushing 40 will be amazing.
The Lakers better enjoy their present, because David Griffin owns their future.
If you were going to build a dynasty from the ground up quickly, you’d need 3 things: a transcendent young rookie megastar, lots of assets and salary cap space, and an executive smart enough to construct the roster.
The Pelicans have all three. If you thought following the Pelicans this week was fun because they basically control the entire draft and teams are lining up to trade for the #4 pick Griffin just got in the Davis trade, you will LOVE the next 6 years.
The Pelicans have more assets to deal than anyone else and when the next big star decides he wants to leave guess who will be the first guy called? The guy with two future Lakers #1 picks and multiple pick swaps.
Griffin is going to build a dynasty. We will be entering a window soon where the Pelicans rule the NBA like the Golden State Warriors just did. When that happens in a post-Drew Brees world, there’s no reason, at least for a moment the Pelicans can’t rule NOLA sports.
Fall 2019 is the most anticipated NOLA Sports season in my entire life. We have the 13-3 Saints trying to win Drew Brees another Super Bowl before he retires, LSU football will be preseason Top 10 with a returning quarterback we actually believe in, and Tulane is coming off a season where they won a bowl game for the first time in 16 years.
Sports hope is being pumped through our veins at DANGEROUS levels not recommended by doctors. It’s so fantastic I can barely stand it. Fall can’t get here soon enough.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.