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You know, the only thing that matters is the ending. That’s the most important part of the story, the ending.”

– Mort Rainey, Secret Window

For the first time this season, the San Antonio Spurs have landed themselves in the loss column. I suppose it was bound happen. Not once in seventy-four years of NBA play has a team managed to go undefeated, and in a game that featured some of their sloppiest stretches of the season, the Silver and Black managed to keep it close, but were ultimately unable to put up a tying basket to send it to overtime.

It was a fitting end to a match-up in which neither team seemed capable of finding any kind of consistency, and I suppose I could end this article here, but with all due apologies to Stephen King, the end is not the only thing that matters.

In their own unique fashion, narrow losses are just as interesting as narrow wins. Dissatisfaction can sometimes leave you more to mine; can spur you to more closely examine lose ends than you might otherwise. A close win often leaves the viewer with a sense of relief, but a close loss can often provide an evidence wall’s worth of supposition.

Suppose, for instance, that the San Antonio Spurs hadn’t been outrebounded 56-47. Suppose they hadn’t nearly doubled New Orleans’ number of turnovers 15-7. Suppose LaMarcus Aldridge had managed to score more than four(!) points, or DeMar DeRozan had shot more than 25% from the floor.

Suppose Devin Vassell had made even one of his shots, or the team had collectively shot better than 30% from three. We could be looking back on any one of those things as the linchpin of another Spurs victory. Hell, taken together we could have played witness to one heck of a holiday rout!

The flashes were there, in case I’ve forgotten to make that clear.

There was Keldon Johnson alligator wrestling any player fool enough to drive in his direction. And there was Lonnie Walker levitating in his moments of breathtaking clarity. There was Rudy Gay, rising from early season mediocrity to try and carry Aldridge’s and DeRozan’s scoring load all on his own, keeping San Antonio in it every time the Pelicans tried to pull away.

Even with New Orleans doing their best to bully San Antonio with their size advantage, and DeJounte Murray struggling to find an open passing lane, the pace continued to be a youthful one, and the Silver and Black shot three-pointers with a regularity that is (for me at least) still taking some getting used to.

But that’s the thing about close contests, regardless of which side of the win column your team ends up on. The supposition is just as applicable for both teams, it’s just that the winner feels less need to examine the fragility of their victory; a truth just as applicable to personal and financial arenas as it is to the wide world of professional sports.

The truth is, it’s just as easy to imagine a scenario in which the Pelicans shot better than 20% from three, and 38% from the floor. Or in which longtime sharpshooter (and ofttimes Spurs Killer) J.J. Reddick canned even one of his six shots from long-distance. It’s almost easy to imagine a scenario in which New Orleans’ defense managed to retain most (or all) of their fifteen point second half lead with timely defensive rotations and savvy positioning.

The supposition is endless. And in the end, the only thing that seems to stand on it’s own is the final result. Maybe that’s why we all love competitive sports so much. Maybe it’s one of the only planes of human existence in which we find that kind of closure. Maybe Stephen King was right, and the end is the only thing that matters.

But I simply can’t agree about it being the most important part of the story.

Takeaways:
All things considered, it’s hard to take this result too seriously in the absence of Derrick White. Against a team with size like the Pelicans, much of the Spurs advantage will have to made at the guard positions, and it’s hard to know exactly what that advantage would have looked like without White. It’s worth considering that the Spurs ran up a twenty-two point lead the last time Derrick White took the court against New Orleans, before a thigh injury deprived us of his presence for most of the second half. But then, that was last season, so take it with a grain of salt.
As has been noted, there had to be some anticipation of struggles for San Antonio coming into the historically troublesome Smoothie Center on a SEGABABA, and both Aldridge and DeRozan looked absolutely gassed for most of the contest. Aldridge looked particularly creaky, even in drop coverages, and being banged on by a procession of Pelican bigs almost certainly exacerbated his level of exhaustion. It was no surprise to find that he’d only played for twenty minutes in this one, as at 35 it’s becoming clear that he does not have the stamina that he once did.
Some of the credit for that has to go to Stan Van Gundy, who understood exactly how well his team matched up against the Spurs in the front court, and seemingly did everything he could to maximize that advantage by keeping Cheap Steven Adams Jersey, Cheap Zion Williamson Jersey, and Cheap Brandon Ingram Jersey on the court at the same time whenever possible. Van Gundy is famous for his love of four-out offenses, and consequently has both the knowledge and the tools to derail them. He exploited San Antonio’s lack of big men at every opportunity, while finding a way to clog up the snappy ball-movement that San Antonio had exhibited over the first two games, which seemed to frustrate the Silver and Black’s youngsters enough to keep them from getting into any kind of rhythm.
And that’s where Rudy Gay took over. The cagey vet has seen a wide variety of approaches and offensive droughts in his career, and he found some of his old form that made him a feared scorer in his prime. Whether bailing out the offense with some timely iso-work, playing within its confines, or wresting critical rebounds away from a swarm of Pelican big men, he spent most of his playing time stepping up, and he deserves to be lauded for it. He’s been an major x-factor since arriving in the Alamo City, and that’s a role he seems likely to keep as long as he has more games like this one in him.
DeMar hit Rudy on the go route @DeMar_DeRozan | @RudyGay | #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/pxW8CiHs8j

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 28, 2020
However, Lonnie Walker IV appears to be inching closer to that role with each passing game. As talented as he can be inconsistent, Walker appears to be finding his way as the game slows down for him. He still vacillates between majesty and mediocrity, especially when it comes to decision-making, but he’s starting to pull-up more than he defers, and so far that’s been a big boost for a Spurs team trying to find a way to make up for losses in the long-distance shooting department.
El Quatro has been puro from deep! @lonniewalker_4 is 3/4 from behind the arc pic.twitter.com/Ln0BJOHt3e

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 28, 2020
Trey Lyles on the other hand remains a mystery. His role, his minutes, and his shot all remain shrouded in shadows, which was unfortunate in a game in which the Spurs really could have used his size. I’m not sure if he’s managed to somehow run afoul of an eternally meticulous Gregg Popovich, or if he’s suffering from a crisis of confidence, but he did not look good out there, even for just six minutes. He looked a bit lost to me, which is a wild thing to say about a player that I expected to benefit from more familiarity with San Antonio and their system. In any case, Lyles really needs to get it together, because he’s going to be needed against teams with New Orleabs’ kind of size. It seems crazy to say it, but the margin for error may be so thin this year that San Antonio’s season could depend on Lyles rediscovering his form from the end of last season.
I simply cannot say enough about Patty Mills. His stat lines are rarely flashy, but if you watched any of the last three games you know exactly how important his presence has been in keeping the ship righted while Derrick White recovers. Regardless of the game he seems to always have a hand in a number of critical exchanges all the while serving as one of the critical cogs in keeping the offensive engine running. With last night’s game he became one of the eight longest tenured Spurs in team history, and I think at this point it’s hard to argue that the Bala from Down Under doesn’t deserve a spot in the rafters of his own.
Patty Mills with the crossover and dish to Jakob Poeltl who finishes with the easy two! #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/4HIXLjXEh0

— Joe Garcia (@twoshotspodcast) December 28, 2020
Patty Mills is playing his 600th game as a Spur tonight – just the 10th player in SA history to reach 600.

Tim, Tony, Manu, Robinson, Gervin, Elliott, Avery, Bowen, Bonner, Mills.

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) December 28, 2020

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Bleacher Report is predicting that the New Orleans Pelicans will land Houston Rockets’ superstar James Harden via trade
The New Orleans Pelicans are off to a solid start to their 2020-21 NBA season, but that doesn’t mean their roster couldn’t improve. Now, most of us are probably assuming that the Pelicans want to improve their roster by improving their rotation, but Bleacher Report had a different idea.

In a post crafted by their entire NBA staff, Bleacher Report laid out their predictions for the rest of the NBA season. The biggest bombshell in that piece was that the Pelicans would be the team that will land James Harden.

Here’s how they explained it:

“Rejoining Kevin Durant may make a lot of sense for Harden. But ultimately, it will be the Pelicans with the best offer of young players (Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, etc.), veterans (one or both of Cheap JJ Redick Jersey and Eric Bledsoe) and draft considerations. “

Their argument certainly makes sense. Unlike Harden’s list of preferred destinations, the New Orleans Pelicans can offer the Rockets the best combination of veterans, young players, and draft picks. I’m all with that argument, but should the Pelicans make the move? And would they?

TRENDING: Rotations issues are boosting the Pels’ risk of injury
Re-analyzing a New Orleans Pelicans-James Harden trade
We wrote about a potential James Harden trade a while ago, and the deal we laid out gave the Rockets Lonzo Ball, J.J. Redick, and virtually all of their first-round assets. Now if that’s the deal, great sign me up. Upgrading Lonzo Ball with James Harden would instantly make the Pelicans a title contender.

However, I think the Rockets will want more than just Cheap Lonzo Ball Jersey. I think they’d probably want Cheap Brandon Ingram Jersey. If the Rockets would take Ball, they’d probably want Cheap Eric Bledsoe Jersey and a prospect like Cheap Kira Lewis Jersey. or Cheap Jaxson Hayes Jersey as well. In my estimation, those deals just leverage too much of the future, especially any including Ingram.

With that being said, I could see this prediction coming true if the Rockets don’t want to acquiesce to Harden and settle with lower offers from Brooklyn or Philadelphia. Maybe the Rockets’ best offer would be the trade we described with Jaxson Hayes included, and if that’s the case, we’re in business Pelicans fans!

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The New Orleans Pelicans moved franchise-icon Cheap Jrue Holiday Jersey to the Milwaukee Bucks in an offseason trade that brought back a haul.

Not only did the Pelicans get All-Defensive player Cheap Eric Bledsoe Jersey, but also a chest of future draft assets to be conveyed down the road.

RELATED STORY: Why the Giannis contract is good for the Pelicans
Yesterday it was announced via Shams Charania that Giannis signed a five-year supermax extension to stay with the Bucks:

Breaking: Giannis Antetokounmpo says he is signing a contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. The two-time MVP will sign a five-year, $228.2 million supermax extension with the franchise, the largest deal in NBA history, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 15, 2020

On one hand, this is good for the future of smaller market teams and the NBA, but on the other, it could be bad for the New Orleans Pelicans’ future draft picks.

New Orleans Pelicans: Giannis contract shouldn’t affect future Pelicans’ draft picks.
When news of the Giannis signing broke, Pelicans’ fans let out a collective sigh, as we were secretly hoping he would flee Milwaukee for greener pastures.

Why? The Pels have a load of future picks from the Bucks and if they don’t have Giannis, those could potentially be very valuable picks.

RELATED STORY: 5 overreactions to the 114-92 win over the Miami Heat
Now that they have Giannis, those picks are all going to be in the high 20’s right? Not necessarily.

The Pelicans don’t start conveying the Bucks’ picks until 2024 (the right to swap), one year before Giannis’ new contract expires.

If the Bucks haven’t won a title by then, there is every chance that Giannis’ next contract will be with another team. By 2024 the Bucks could be ready to trade Giannis and bottom out.

Even if that is not the case, the Pelicans will have their pick in 2025, another swap in 2026 and another unprotected pick in 2027, when Giannis will either be gone or at least over 30-years-old.

Of course, he could still be very good and may stay with the Bucks forever, in which case all of those picks could lose value.

David Griffin gambled smartly, as he prepared for the eventuality that Giannis would stay in Milwaukee, nabbing picks that should be far enough out for it not to matter.

Giannis’ signing could help the Pels with Cheap Zion Williamson Jersey, and it keeps him out of the West without affecting the picks too much, so this couldn’t have worked out much better for New Orleans.

When Zion Williamson told reporters about not having any sort of restrictions on him this season, he was happy. The smile on his face was bright and his happiness shined through on the video call last week.

After the New Orleans Pelicans’ 114-92 win over the Miami Heat in their preseason opener Monday night, it was clear that any restrictions were a thing of the past.

“It felt great to be out there for extended stretches,” said Williamson, who dealt with what the team dubbed “burst restrictions” last season. “It was great to experience that again.”

Williamson played 33 minutes, 13 seconds against the Heat, the third-most minutes he has played in an NBA game — preseason or otherwise.

“It was a different feeling. I can’t even lie,” Williamson said. “It was a different feeling for sure. I think I was only able to finish a game maybe three, maybe four times last year. But it was a great feeling. When the clock struck zero, I was almost like, ‘Wow, it’s been a while.'”

Williamson actually finished 11 of 24 games last season, but forgive him if his memory is a little hazy as the Pelicans won only three of the 11 he finished. Still, he rarely played for long stretches. That changed Monday. He played 10:19 in the first quarter, more than in any first quarter last season, according to ESPN Stats and Information. In fact, he played at least 10:19 in only three quarters total last season.

Williamson looked like his old self on the court as he finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds. He had only two double-doubles in 24 regular-season games last season (he did have one in the preseason last year), and his 11 rebounds would have tied his career high.

Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said he was impressed with Williamson’s effort on the defensive glass, where he pulled down eight rebounds — which also would have been a career high.

“He hasn’t really been doing much of that in practice, to be honest, and it wasn’t a strength last year,” Van Gundy said. “For him to be able to rebound the ball the way he did on the defensive end was good.”

Van Gundy was also impressed with Williamson’s free throw shooting as he went 10-of-11 from the line. The only times last season when Williamson, a 64% free throw shooter, shot above 90% were when he hit his only attempt against Utah in the bubble and when he knocked down both attempts against Cleveland on Feb. 28.

“The free throws, I feel like I’m going to get fouled a lot,” Williamson said. “That’s free money. I gotta make that.”

Williamson worked this offseason with Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson, who was credited with helping Cheap Lonzo Ball Jersey and Cheap Brandon Ingram Jersey with their shot improvements.

“Me and Coach Vinson have been putting in a lot of work every day in practice, free throws, working on the jumper, working on everything involving my shot,” Williamson said. “That’s been really helpful up to this point.”

Williamson was sitting at 26 minutes when he checked out after the third quarter but came back to play the final 6:38 for Van Gundy, who said he wanted to get his starters about 30 minutes because they have only two preseason games.

Williamson has said how tough it was to play under restrictions last season. He said it was hard to get a rhythm going, so hitting the 33-minute mark Monday was something that felt right.

“That’s why I play basketball,” Williamson said, “to play a lot of minutes and help my team win.”