Bourbon Street in New Orleans exists in a loop. Every night the street falls back into a state of debauchery, repeated with perverse precision. Lonely men walk in and out of red neon strip clubs holding cans of Natty Light. Policemen on horseback ride between sleeping bums, screaming preachers, puddles of urine and boxes of pizza. In a place where sin is legal, the cops are as useless as an ashtray on a bicycle. There is no controlling chaos. Bourbon and Canal Street are just a fraction of what New Orleans has to offer as a city. New Orleans was the largest slave market in the United States. This infamy has created a melting pot of cultures, religions and traditions. Today, the city is one of the densest cultural hubs in the country, offering visitors high-level experiences in dining, contemporary art, and mysticism.
People come to Bourbon Street to act out their depraved imaginations before returning home to mediocrity. It is both a tourist trap and a caligula-themed simulation. And while Bourbon Street is one of the last places monsters can fly their flags, one element isn’t noticeably missing. You’re more likely to find a public bathroom than a group of people wearing Pelicans swimsuits. And why would you? Since arriving in the city from Charlotte in 2002 – first the Hornets, now the Pelicans – the team’s success has been as grim as the Bourbon Street ethos.
In its 20-year history, the team has made the playoffs eight times and only made it out of the first round twice. Worse, the Pelicans have been one of the worst recruiting and then superstar talent swappers. First it was Chris Paul, who came to the team as the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft. He took the team to the playoffs twice during his six seasons in town. It was obvious early on that Paul was special. He was the best all-around guard since John Stockton and seemed to have an unlimited ceiling. In his third season, he was averaging 21 points per game while leading the league in assists (11.6 per game) and steals (2.7 per game). But the front office failed to surround Paul with enough talent to satisfy him in a small market. He was traded to the Clippers in 2011 for a disappointing set of role players.
Next is Anthony Davis, the first pick in the 2012 draft. He’s another Top 75 player of all time and still one of the best big men in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, but, as with Paul, New Orleans also lost Davis. The Pels have again failed to build a competitor around their superstar. Their best attempt was to trade for the problematic DeMarcus Cousins, a talented but temperamental forward who had only known loss in Sacramento. Cousins was a future free agent the following summer, and when he tore his ACL in a January game – subsequently missing the playoffs – the Pels let him walk that summer. for nothing. At the end of the following season, with Davis again the only All-Star on the roster, he demanded a trade. As the second generational talent to leave the franchise in less than a decade, they were at least able to land a better package for their superstar this time and some valuable project capital.
Prior to the 2019 NBA Draft, the Pelicans had a six percent chance of winning the lottery. But when it comes to the draft, at least, New Orleans has always had some luck. They won the award that year, Duke superstar Zion Williamson, the most heralded talent since LeBron James in 2003. Williamson was Herculian his first two seasons, averaging 27 ppg (61 peercent FG) in his second season. Weight issues and a broken fifth metatarsal in his foot kept him out of the 2021-22 season. During his season-long rehab, detractors came out of the woodwork. Many wondered if Zion would ever remain healthy. Memes regarding Zion’s weight gain have littered the Twitterverse. Commercial aggregators began building what it would look like for the Pels to lose their third superstar. Then, midway through last season, current general manager David Griffin pulled off the best trade in the franchise by acquiring CJ McCollum from the Portland Trailblazers without giving up key pieces. It was the type of trade that the Pels were usually the losers in. It was only the second time New Orleans had “won” a trade (Cousins being the first).
McCollum’s leadership and talent were felt immediatelyely. The Pelicans finished last season with a 36-46 record – good for ninth in the Western Conference – and a chance to make the playoffs through the PT posetournament. McCollum teamed up with All-Star Brandon Ingram to form a formidable core with criminally underrated center Jonas Valančiūnas, guard Devonte ‘Graham and rebounding maestro Larry Nance Jr.raft luck? Griffin made it through the 2021 draft, grabbing defensive ace Herb Jones (35th pick) and sniper Trey Murphy III (17th pick), while also signing undrafted gnarly guard Jose Alvarado. Suddenly, the Pelicans were competitive. After making the final post of the Play-In Tournamentseason, they took the Phoenix Suns on a six-game long streak, proving that veterans and rookies had transformed into a legitimate threat to the future under promising young coach Willie Green.
For the first time in franchise history, New Orleans can claim an elite front office, a coach, a core and a superstar. It’s the best the Pels have ever put together for the present and the future. All the pieces lined up to give New Orleans a team that matches the importance of the city’s culture and history. With Ingram and McCollum as second and third All-Star level options, and complementary pieces providing depth and offensive diversity, all the Pels needed was their first-option centerpiece to regain health and complete the championship puzzle. Look out, here comes Zion.
Judging by the Pels’ first preseason game, the power forward has entered this season in the best form of his young career. Adding Zion to a talented core puts this team in a rarefied place it’s never been before: Contenders. The Pels are expected to challenge atop the West with the defending champion Nuggets, Clippers and Warriors.
After a history of losing two of the best players the game has ever seen, the Pelicans have finally built a surrounding cast around their superstar Zion that will make it hard for them to bolt. He signed a five-year rookie extension worth $193 million this summer. And while signing an extension isn’t a sign he’s destined to spend his entire career with the Pels, it does give the team a five-year timeline to show Zion they’re committed to putting on. the past behind them and finally giving Bourbon Street a reason. celebrate something that much do debauchery.