Pelicans plummet after Williamson’s injury

Benny Greenspan, Staff Reporter

Merrie Afseth

This past season has been a rollercoaster ride for the New Orleans Pelicans. On Dec. 8, the Pelicans were off to the best start to their season in franchise history, tied first in the West and full of championship aspirations. This was largely due to the MVP-like play by Zion Williamson, who on that same day, put up 29 points on 11/16 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds in the win against the Detroit Pistons

Beyond Williamson’s dominance, the Pelicans were firing on all cylinders and finished third overall in defensive rating and second in overall net rating at the time. 

While the Pelicans were bound to experience some hurdles and missteps throughout a long 82 game season, it was hard to imagine them falling out of the top six, or even the play-in at any point. This changed on Jan. 2 —  the Pelicans’ worst fears were realized when Williamson came down with a hamstring injury against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Since the injury, the Pelicans experienced their worst stretch of the season. They lost 10 straight games, all without Williamson and most without star Brandon Ingram. This losing streak saw the Pelicans fall from a top seed all the way to 11th. The unfortunate streak was snapped in a thrilling home win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 4, with Ingram starting to settle in and putting up 35 points. Ingram has since led the Pelicans to win four out of their last five, moving up to the seventh spot

More help also came to the Pelicans at the trade deadline when they traded Devonte Graham and four second rounders to the San Antonio Spurs for Josh Richardson, a tough three-and-D player. Richardson looked great in the Pelicans most recent win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 10 points and putting up five steals and two blocks on the defensive end.  

As the Pelicans have once again started to climb the standings, more bad news hit — David Griffin reported that a setback to Williamson’s recovery process would cause him to miss multiple weeks after the All-star break. With only 24 games left, it will be up to Ingram, CJ McCollum and the rest of their cast of young players to try to move the Pelicans out of the play-in and cement a position in the postseason. 

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