by Christopher Dodson, Sports Illustrated & Contributing Writer
The New Orleans Pelicans wrapped up their NBA Las Vegas Summer League schedule with a win over Chet Holmgren’s Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, July 17 by a score of 107-71 and finished 3-2 overall.
Though the 2022 draft picks had their time cut short, the franchise showed a depth and soul that represents the pride of the region. From the Birmingham Squadron to the next Pelicans playoff run, not to mention the college and high school season, basketball is on the rise in the South Coast.
2022 NBA Summer League Champion Portland Trail Blazers beat the Pelicans in the first game on Saturday, July 9 by an 85-68 score.
The Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum sat courtside with Jose Alvarado and Jaxson Hayes to watch most of the games. Zion Williamson flew in from a Jordan Brand event in Paris to see the tail end of the team’s schedule despite Dyson Daniels, E.J. Liddell, and Karlo Matkovic being sidelined through injury.
The stars showed up for the summer version of the G-League squad and a few training camp hopefuls. It’s indicative of the culture the front office has fostered since taking charge.
The Gulf South will be finding a way to get to a Pelicans or Squadron game soon. Some games and ticket packages are close to being sold out in both cities according to the team. Birmingham will host a Pelican preseason game and help some of the future stars get court time.
Kira Lewis Jr. was spotted in Las Vegas at several games. The Alabama product could be available for training camp but will still likely start ramping up to game fitness with the Squadron. Fans in Birmingham have the chance to get a first look at a former first-round pick. Lewis Jr. is looking to return an play an X-Factor role in the playoffs.
Jared Harper (Auburn) and John Petty Jr. (Alabama) round out the Alabama connections that should return to the Squadron starting lineup. John Butler Jr. (Florida St.) was perfect in his summer league finale and will draw in the panhandle crowd. He might have played too well, and will earn an Exhibit 10 contract somewhere.
Dereon Seabron is hoping to be the next two-way contract turned guaranteed NBA money story from the team’s system. Daeqwon Plowden and Elijah Stewart showed a talent level worthy of G-League investment.
Zach Hankins and Tyrique Jones were capable big men that kept the offense moving. Deividas Sirvydis will likely get more money to be a sniper in a top European league.
There are three months until the NBA preseason tips off in October. That gives the organization time to build on the goodwill built up through the playoff run. The family atmosphere is obvious, but so are the expectations.
The Pelicans are leaving Vegas like the hit a jackpot but lost a debit card due to the injuries. They have to hit the ground running if they hope to fill the Smoothie King Center; aka. The Blender, for more than 42 games next season.