Looks like everybody on the basketball wing of operations at 5800 Airline Highway is drinking the Kool-Aid, too.
Or at least they were.
Monday’s road loss to the dreadful New York Knicks brought the Pelicans to the midpoint of their season with a resounding thud.
It is obvious that this team, now 20-21, does not have it in itself to mount the kind of effort over the second half of the season to earn a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
That’s the supposed standard it had set for itself.
And it’s becoming unfortunately obvious that coach Monty Williams does not have it within himself to push the right motivational and strategic buttons may a team whose only consistent factor seems to be its maddening inconsistency.
Overcoming that inconsistency is the standard Williams by which Williams should be judged.
In a league in which you need to be good at least three times a week to be considered a contender, the Pelicans haven’t won two in a row since Dec. 16 and 18.
How long ago was that? Well, Tom Benson’s other team (You remember the Saints, don’t you?) still controlled its playoff destiny.
Still do the Pelicans.
There are 41 games remaining. And the Pelicans are only four games behind Phoenix for eighth place, even though Monday’s loss dropped them to 10th place, a half game behind Oklahoma City.
What’s more, after playing 24 of their first 41 games on the road, they’re at home for 24 of the last 41 where they’re 12-5.
The Pelicans don’t travel to play a top eight Western team until March 3, when they go to Memphis.
That should bode well the locals, shouldn’t it?
Well, the five-game Eastern road trip that concluded Monday was supposed to be a record-padder, being that Toronto was the only in the bunch with a winning record.
But the team’s annual trip north of the border plus the one at suddenly hot Detroit proved to be the only victories.
The losses — at Boston, at Philadelphia and at NYC — were to teams that were a combined 23-90 and 13-44 at home when they played the Pelicans.
That had to be one long ride home from the Big Apple on Monday night — followed by some soul-searching Tuesday.
Maybe Wednesday, when the team hosts the Los Angeles Lakers, maybe at the All-Star break three weeks from now, or maybe at season’s end — a change seems to be on the way.
Williams is as decent a person as you can find in a profession where decency is not a job requirement.
He’s a good family man and has enough respect in the coaching community that he’s an assistant on the U.S. National team, a position he has taken on with the intention of improving himself as a coach as much helping his country win a gold medal.
He’s been given more than his share of bad bounces since coming on the job five years ago. And he’s gotten mulligans for that.
Williams knows that the opportunity to be an NBA head coach, especially with the league’s best young player on your team, is a rare opportunity. By all indications he has done everything in his power to be a success.
There comes a time when either your best isn’t good enough, or your players have stopped listening to you. Or both.
And you know it.
Listen to Williams after the past three losses:
Boston — “I’m not doing a good job of getting them to play the same way every game, and it’s plagued us all season long.”
Philadelphia — “We got outworked, and all the things that we say we don’t want to do, we did tonight.”
New York — “I’ve always felt like you should always look at yourself first as it applies to helping your team. … I have to make evaluations on what I’m doing and how that’s not giving us a chance to be consistent.”
That sounds like a man who knows the consequences of failing to meet expectations, starting with his own.
Of course, you can put an asterisk next to the 76ers and Knicks games since both Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday were out with injuries.
But they weren’t available Sunday either when the Pelicans managed to pull the one out in Toronto.
And the Knicks hadn’t just lost 16 in a row. They’d dropped their past nine straight by an average of 17.6 points per-game.
But Monday, the Knicks built an early lead and then held on when Jose Calderon, who’d made just one of his first nine shots, nailed a 3-pointer that made it a four-point game with 32 seconds left.
That followed a missed 3-pointer by Ryan Anderson that would have given the Pelicans the lead against a team that by all rights would have folded in such a situation. Anderson’s missed was one of 10 clunkers from behind the arc Monday.
For the Pelicans, it’s been that kind of season.
And now the Pelicans brass — and nobody’s sure if it’s General Manager Dell Demps’ call or not — must decide if it’s time for a change, Demps isn’t exempt from scrutiny as well.
When you’re a franchise trying to put fannies in the seats, everything’s on the table.
There’s a lot to consider:
The team isn’t exactly in freefall. Games against the Los Angeles Lakers at home Wednesday and at Minnesota on Friday give the Pelicans a good opportunity to get back above .500 before Dallas comes to the Smoothie King Center on Sunday.
If you extrapolate the home and road records for the rest of the season, that’s 17-7 at home and 6-11 on the road and a 43-39 finish.
That’s probably not going to get you in the playoff in the West, but it’s a nine-game improvement from the year before.
The moves to acquire Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter appear to have improved the situation at small forward and mean that Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon don’t have figure out how to share the ball so often.
With Davis and Holliday out, we haven’t had a real chance to see the team at full strength since the Austin Rivers-Pondexter trade.
By all accounts, Davis and Williams have a strong relationship. The Pelicans have the ability to hold on to their franchise player for at least three more seasons.
A coaching change could create a Chris Paul situation unless it’s obvious there’s no other choice.
And even though the Pelicans appear to be a group of young veterans who need another year or two of maturation to develop into true contenders, for both the management and the increasingly restless fan base, patience has worn thin.
And the Kool-Aid sure doesn’t taste too good any more.