Without Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram led the New Orleans Pelicans to a gutsy stand against the Phoenix Suns before losing Game 6 and the series. It took a historic night from Chris Paul and the return of Devin Booker for the top-seeded Suns to hold off the undermanned but gritty Pelicans.
CP3’s all-time playoff best of 14-14 field goals and Book’s clutch three-point shot were critical in eliminating the young and relentless New Orleans team. Despite the loss, the future seems brighter than ever for a team no one expected to even barge into the playoffs.
Stephen A. Smith was appreciative of the Brandon Ingram-led Pelicans, who took the Suns’ best shots and barely wavered:
“A message to @B_Ingram13: you are a star young fella. No matter this outcome. You should know this about yourself. As for @Zionwilliamson, you know you are holding title-contention for the @PelicansNBA in your hands. You get healthy and ready, skies the limit for this franchise.”
The New Orleans Pelicans have had a Cinderella story this season. They began their campaign hoping for Zion Williamson to get back healthy and lead them. “Zanos” did not end up playing and spent most of the regular season in Portland recuperating.
In Williamson’s absence and with new head coach Willie Green still trying to find his bearing, the New Orleans Pelicans limped to a 1-12 record by mid-November. Things gradually improved until they were in contention for a play-in spot before the trade deadline.
To give Brandon Ingram much-needed help, the New Orleans Pelicans traded for veteran scoring machine CJ McCollum. The former Portland Trail Blazers star brought more than just his buckets. He also added stability to the young squad.
The Pelicans became a more complete squad, displaying the kind of gritty game that their head coach was known for. Everything meshed up towards the end of the season as they finished off the star-studded LA Lakers for one of the final play-in spots.
Zion Williamson’s lost season was a blessing in disguise for Brandon Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans rookies
Minus Zion Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans put their complete trust in Brandon Ingram.
Ingram’s status on the team wasn’t so clear after Williamson was named an All-Star in his sophomore season. Willie Green challenged Ingram to take the opportunity to be a leader, and “Slenderman” made the head coach proud, particularly in the playoffs.
Without “Zanos,” the Pelicans were able to discover a diamond in the rough by the name of Herbert Jones.
Jones started as the power forward in 69 of the 78 games he played this season. He is the exact image of the player Willie Green craves.
Jones' defense, smarts and never-say-die attitude were huge for the Pelicans against the experienced defending Western Conference champions.
Ditto for the undersized Jose Alvarado, who probably has the biggest heart of all in New Orleans. The unheralded rookie was a crowd favorite because of his unwavering belief in himself.
Chris Paul had nothing but praise for the resilient rookie.
Next year, the core of Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas, CJ McCollum and Herbert Jones will not be title favorites. However, no one will be counting them out, especially after their gutsy, devil-may-care performance against Phoenix, who were heavily favored to win the championship heading into the playoffs.