NBA Preview: Brandon Ingram and Pelicans want nothing more than to kick off Orlando restart with win over Gobert and Jazz

Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s game day! We made it!!

The NBA has done the unthinkable in creating a COVID-19-free campus environment for players and key personnel in addition to preparing a seemingly endless list of logistics that go into the day to day life of the average athlete.

Wine fridges, fishing, barber shops, hundreds of thousands of pounds of ice per day, all things the league needed to carefully plot out on top of a level of testing unseen elsewhere in the United States.

But now it’s time for the main event — basketball that counts, and it’s fitting in some weird way that the initial benefactor of this incredible display of execution will be Rudy Gobert. After all, Gobert’s careless interactions with Utah Jazz teammates and media personnel played a significant role in shutting down the NBA in the first place.

“People didn’t have much to talk about for four months,” Gobert said. “Now that we’re back playing, I think it’s time to put it behind. I get asked about [my relationship with Mitchell] every day. I can understand. But I hope there are some more interesting topics now.”

On the opposite end of the floor will be our New Orleans Pelicans. However, before the two teams do battle against each other the moment the ball is tossed into the air, the two will unite beforehand in a powerful gesture that should deservedly cast a light on social justice.

Once that message is delivered to the millions of eyes certain to be glued to every moment of the most significant sporting event in four months, the restart will get underway and all eyes will fall on the Pelicans and Jazz in the opener.

These two teams have met three times during the 2019-20 season and provided plenty of entertaining fireworks, with each final tally combining for 248 points or more and each being decided by eight points or less.

On January 6, the game was decided by two points when Brandon Ingram challenged Gobert in transition at the buzzer which potentially would have sent the contest to overtime, but he failed to draw a whistle.

On January 16th, Ingram took things into his own hands again, this time scoring 49 points on 25 shots in a six-point overtime win the Pelicans desperately needed in order to stay alive in the Western Conference standings.

Ingram wasn’t the only high-scoring All-Star to earn attention in that contest. Donovan Mitchell exploded for 46 points, after scoring 37 in the first matchup back in November. Slowing Spida will be critical for New Orleans to keep pace with the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies in the race for the eighth seed.

The Pelicans will be fortunate, though, to not face Bojan Bogdanovic, who averaged 29.8 points per game on 19 shots per game against the Pelicans. He opted for surgery in May on a ligament in his right wrist and will miss the rest of this season.

The Jazz (41-23) are a well-balanced team, placing eighth in offensive rating and 11th in defensive with Gobert as the low-post anchor. Royce O’Neale will likely assume the challenge against Brandon Ingram. Should Mike Conley Jr. start, he and Mitchell will share assignments against Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday. Joe Ingles could be a nightmare for the Pelicans thanks to his perimeter shooting and ability to navigate the pick-and-roll.

Rudy Gobert versus Derrick Favors may be the most unheralded matchup and yet the most critical of all. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Gobert will look to lock down the paint as he does with regularity against most opponents. He grades in the 100th percentile in D-PIPM, DRPM, rim contests, blocks, rim points and defensive rebounding saved per BBall Index.

By comparison, Favors ranks in the 100th percentile in offensive rebounding, 99th percentile in rim contests, 98th percentile in blocks, 91st percentile in D-PIPM and 87th percentile in DRPM.

If Favors can play Gobert to a draw, it would be a significant step toward earning the much-needed victory for New Orleans.

The Pelicans could have an additional weapon available. Andrew Lopez has reported Zion Williamson will be a game-time decision after his brief quarantine and two practices on both Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

Since Zion’s absence wasn’t due to any injury, it would come as a mild surprise to see the Pelicans hold him out completely for missing close to several weeks of game activity. However, there should be an expectation that his typical workload may decrease.

If the Pelicans do get 20 plus minutes from Zion, they should be considered the favorite. Zion is the only rookie ever to score 23.6 points with 6.8 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the field. With him in the lineup, the Pelicans starting five was first in the NBA with a 26.3 net-rating.

More than that, the Pelicans need to win this game while the Jazz have already stamped their playoff ticket. The Jazz are currently sitting in fourth, but they are only a game ahead of the Thunder and Rockets. However, without the benefit of home court advantage in Orlando’s bubble, it’s difficult to find a reason for Utah to give their fullest effort beyond just building momentum as they move toward the playoffs.

Oddshark has the Pelicans as a 1.4 point favorite.

The Pelicans, on the other hand, need as many victories as they can collect as they hope to at least trigger a potential play-in tournament. If New Orleans can start off strong and grab a couple of wins against the Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, they could put themselves in position to overtake the Memphis Grizzlies for the highly coveted eighth spot.

As you know, the team sitting in eighth needs to only defeat the ninth team once in the play-in tournament, while the latter must defeat the eighth twice — an incredible advantage. With eight games to play and 3.5 to make up, every game will be critical to that end.

Regardless of what happens and who plays, it’s nice to have even just a shred of normalcy back.

Thanks for reading. And let’s geaux, Pels!

Who: Utah Jazz vs New Orleans Pelicans

When: 5:30 p.m. Central

Where to watch: TNT, FSNO

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @PrestonEllis.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.