If anything, fans around here have learned to be patient.
After all, it took 20 years for the Saints to make the playoffs.
But for those who turned for the Pelicans’ season opener against Orlando in the Smoothie King Center on Tuesday, there is a limit — even if they were rewarded with a 101-84 victory against the Magic.
“This is when we’d better get over .500 and make the playoffs,” said Brian Fair of New Orleans, a season-ticket holder since 2008 who was attending with his wife, Helga. “I’ve seen them work hard even in the losing years and at least be competitive.
“You enjoy being entertained at the games, but you want some success too.”
The Pelicans, who have had three straight losing seasons, did give the fans both Tuesday.
Anthony Davis put up superstar numbers: 26 points, 17 rebounds and nine blocked shots, matching his career high.
Davis was a constant presence on the court, bringing the crowd to its feet early with a blocked shot he took the length of the court for a dunk and then grabbing a loose ball and putting in a reverse dunk in the third period and he steadily built his numbers.
“Anthony Davis was an absolute freak tonight,” said Joey Ferguson of Lafayette. “Getting rebounds, getting blocked, getting points.
“He’s playing like he should.”
Indeed, that’s what we’ve come to expect from AD.
But was the rest of the team, with some familiar faces and some new ones that looked good, albeit against one of the league’s lesser lights.
- Tyreke Evans may be undersized for small forward. But he’s always on the move, once wearing through a corn maze of Orlando defenders for a layup. He appears to have learned that he can’t always bull his way to the basket.
- Center Omer Asik, the showed he was worth the 2015 first-round pick it took and possibly the $8.3 million he’s counting against the salary cap by seemingly picking up every free ball within 10 feet of the basket and getting something out of it.
In the first quarter, he rebounded a missed free throw by Jrue Holiday — there aren’t many offensive boards off of those in the NBA — and in turn was fouled putting up a layup.
By halftime Asik, who fumed on the bench at Houston last year when he was relegated behind Dwight Howard, had a double-double by halftime — 12 points and 11 boards — and finished with 14 and 17. When was the last time the Pelicans got that kind of performance out of the starting center?
- Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson, the trio whose injuries destroyed whatever playoff hopes the team had a year ago, all looked fully recovered.
The three-guard starting lineup of Evans, Holiday and Eric Gordon was far speedier than whoever Orlando had on the floor and Anderson brought the crowd to its feet at end of the third quarter with back-to back-to-back three-points broke open what had been a close game due mostly to poor free throw shooting (9-20).
It was never in doubt over the final 12 minutes.
“Wonderful game, great game,” said Dorian Dunmiles of New Orleans, who was with his wife, Michele and 4-year-old son Darius. “I anticipated Anthony Davis looking strong and he looked strong.
“I’m thoroughly happy with the play of Anderson, and I loved the way Tyreke came out and moved around. Everybody looked healthy and played solid.”
But as Fair pointed out, this was only one game. And the opponent was Orlando, not the beasts of the Western Conference, including Dallas which comes to the Smoothie King Center on Saturday night.
“Orlando is not one of the better teams in the league,” he said. “It’s going to take some time for this team to get its rhythm down.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement and we still may have to be patient with this bunch. We were that way with the Saints, and it finally paid off, and I think this team will too.”