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Justify is up, but poor Pelicans are down!

by J.W. Miller on 05/07/18

As you read in this space during our last visit, Justify justified my belief that he is the valedictorian of the current class of 3-year-old colts. Of course, anybody can pick the favorite of a race, right? Well, that’s what one of my oldest friends chided after Justify’s victory. But to take the lazy man’s approach would be a disservice to you folks who are kind enough to read my ramblings.


Anybody who did the research would have seen the same point that stuck out with me, and I quote: “What has impressed me is that in each of his past three races his Beyer speed rating exceeded 100, which is like an NBA rookie scoring 50 points three games in a row.” That is American Pharoah territory, and the man who trained both, Bob Baffert, made the comment last week that Justify is the best horse he has taken into the Derby. ‘Nuff said! 


Meanwhile, New Orleans sporting fans are returning to normal this morning. “Normal” around here is the state of absolute grace for their beloved Saints while giving a begrudging pat on the head to the upstart Pelicans. The basketball division of the Benson sports empire teased the locals on Friday, turning the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors into a bad version of the local CYO team in a Pels’ walkover. Alas, both teams returned to form Sunday. The Pelicans could not find the basket from beyond the three-point arc (4 of 26?) while Kevin Durant showed why he might be the best player on the planet not named Lebron. 


The Warriors take a 3-1 lead in their Western Division semi-final series back to the left coast, while Pelicans fans are turning their two-way Benson empire jerseys inside-out to display the Saints black and gold. You’ll be hearing a lot of football news this week as the team holds its rookie mini-camp and Who Dats get their first up-close look at the new saviors on our small planet. But before then, let’s give the local pro hoopsters their due. 


The Pelicans’ sweep of Portland gave the local franchise a much-needed lift out of the gloom of owner Tom Benson’s death. Even if the Warriors follow the expected script and win the series, this has been a season that the Pels can use as a springboard into the upper levels of the league. Golden State and Houston will be around for a while, but could be challenged with some prudent off-season maneuvering. The core three of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic have a short task list for management, the first of which I believe is reaching an accommodation with DeMarcus Cousins. 


Big Cuz was having another All-star season when he tore an Achilles tendon in January. A maximum contract would have been a no-brainer for the 27-year-old center before the injury, but likely not now. Although the healing rates for Achilles surgery are high, it is still difficult for athletes to fully recover their explosive power, which is a huge issue for basketball players. Kobe Bryant and Patrick Ewing tore their Achilles tendons and returned to play, but they were never quite the same players they were before the injury. Cousins does have one thing going for him as he is younger than the aforementioned, which could help his recovery. A financial accommodation should be in there somewhere.


The other task for Pelicans’ management is to bring back point guard Rajon Rondo, whose presence calmed an often helter-skelter offense as well as contributing double-digit assists and occasionally points and rebounds. Another year or two of running his own team in New Orleans could be a stepping stone to his expressed goal of a head coaching job. It also could help the Pels take the next step in their evolution. 



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