Davis, Pelicans open second half at Pacers
Two teams that have dealt with adversity centered on their star player begin the NBA's second half seeking to prove they can still be contenders, as the New Orleans Pelicans visit the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis on Friday night.
Both teams got an additional day off for their All-Star break when the NBA scheduled only six games Thursday on the league's first night of action, after taking six nights off from regular-season play sandwiching the annual showcase game on Sunday.
Pelicans star Anthony Davis played only five minutes in that game after having left New Orleans' previous game three days earlier with a bruised left shoulder.
He is expected to play against the Pacers, following a proclamation by Pelicans owner Gayle Benson that she expects her team to "compete at a high level for the remainder of the season."
That expectation was part of Benson's written statement regarding the firing of general manager Dell Demps on the day after the Pelicans finished the first half with a 131-122 win over Oklahoma City, a victory that nonetheless left New Orleans (26-33) six games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"As difficult as these decisions are," Benson wrote, "my responsibility is to provide the leadership and resources necessary to deliver a winning team to our fans and community. I take that responsibility seriously and would like to assure our fans that I am prepared to provide any, and all, resources required to compete for championships.
"My expectations, and the expectations of our fans, are that this team will compete at a high level for the remainder of the season. While we still have many more critical decisions to make when this season comes to an end, I am focused on making sure we are properly positioned to succeed and that we are headed in the right direction."
Benson selected Danny Ferry to serve as the interim general manager for what most expect to be the final 23 games of Davis' playing days in New Orleans. He has expressed a desire to be traded, though no such deal materialized before the deadline earlier this month.
Davis was out of the lineup, one of his 14 absences in the first 59 games, when the Pelicans were beaten 109-107 at home by the Pacers on Feb. 4.
That win was early in a six-game Indiana winning streak that came shortly after the club lost its top player, Victor Oladipo, for the season with a ruptured quad tendon.
The winning streak began in the wake of a four-game losing skid that immediately followed the injury.
The Pacers' sudden reversal surprised many NBA observers, but not veteran Thaddeus Young.
"We cover for our brother," Young insisted to reporters during the winning streak. "That's one of the biggest things: The brotherhood in this locker room. None of us wants to let anyone down."
The Pacers (38-20) begin the second half with the third-best record in the East, but with the eighth-hardest remaining schedule in the NBA in terms of cumulative winning percentage of opponents (.522).
Most of the meat of that schedule comes in March, as Indiana is slated to face only one team currently residing in playoff position (Detroit) among its first seven opponents coming out of the All-Star break.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 21, 2019