May 20, 2014, 12:20 PM EST
The New Orleans Pelicans made a huge push last offseason to accelerate their rebuild. They traded for Jrue Holiday and signed-and-traded for Tyreke Evans – adding two big talents to a core that already included Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon.
But New Orleans fell flat.
The Pelicans went just 34-48, becoming a run-of-the-mill bad team that is out of the playoff race early and a longshot to move up in the lottery. When that happens, there are often consequences.
Did the general manager fail to assemble a good team? Did the coach fail to implement a good strategy?
At this point, it’s up to ownership – in this case, New Orleans’ Tom Benson – to parse the difference.
Folks around the league have been wondering for weeks whether the team would bring back Dell Demps, the GM, for the final year on his deal after a disappointing 2013-14 season. The consensus is growing that Demps is likely safe, though ownership needs to see progress next season — and perhaps a playoff berth in the ultracompetitive West.
But Demps and Monty Williams haven’t always seen eye to eye, according to several league sources, and ownership is more committed at this point to Williams as a long-term organizational pillar.
All general managers and coaches “haven’t always seen eye to eye.” That these disagreements made it to a published report – especially from someone as careful in his reporting as Lowe – suggests this rises above typical minor squabbles. The bigger questions: How much above and how fixable are the issues?
The Pelicans are probably making the right choice in – if push comes to shove – committing to Williams, but both he and Demps are respected around the league, and both have mixed records. It’s not easy to make a case for one over the other, though I’ve been slightly more impressed with New Orleans’ on-court gameplans than their roster assembly.
The Pelicans had a ridiculous amount of injuries this year, so Demps probably deserves another year to see whether his offseason bears fruit. His leash is obviously shortening, though.
And if New Orleans dumps Demps at some point, that wouldn’t exactly bode well for Williams. It’s important a general manager and coach are on the same page, even if they sometimes disagree, and I’m not convinced the Pelicans should limit a potential GM search to only those who would keep Williams. If the best available GM wants to pick his own coach and prefers someone other than Williams, the Pelicans should take that seriously.
Of course, we’re not nearly to that point yet.
A playoff berth next season will be tough, but Davis at least gives New Orleans – and Demps – a chance.
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