The New Orleans Pelicans are trying to be the Kentucky Wildcats South

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April 3, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; New Orleans Hornets power forward Anthony Davis (23) talks to head coach Monty Williams (right) during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Hornets 98-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Until I watched “Sharknado” last night, I was pretty much convinced that the name the “New Orleans Pelicans” was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen. After Sharknado, Pelicans has become the Citizen Kane of team names and bad name aside, it seems they are doing a very good job rebuilding their team. Some would pay homage to what John Calipari is doing at UK and call the Pelicans “Kentucky South”.

 

Combine the Holiday trade with the acquisition of Tyreke Evans and it’s clear New Orleans is trying to accelerate the rebuilding process. From a basketball perspective, it’s a somewhat odd decision for a 27-win team with a 20-year-old franchise player. Upon closer inspection, though, there is some method to their madness. There’s a model for what the Pelicans are doing, but it doesn’t come from the NBA. New Orleans is trying to be Kentucky South.

Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans feels like the type of team John Calipari would put together in Lexington. While Davis and Evans are the only ones who actually played for Calipari, the Pelicans are equipped to bring his style of play to the NBA. They have three guards who can create offense off the bounce, a versatile big man who prefers to play on the perimeter and an athletic edge on almost every team they will face.

There’s been a lot of concern about whether their trio of perimeter stars can co-exist, but it’s a little overblown. The main worry is floor spacing, but Holiday (a career 37 percent shooter from 3) and Gordon (36 percent) are proven long-range shooters. And while Evans is an inconsistent shooter, he improved dramatically last season, with a career best 34 percent from three. More importantly, their minutes will be somewhat staggered to keep the pressure on opposing defenses for 48 minutes.

 

I think it’s pretty much official.  After the Magic, the Pelicans are my second favorite NBA team.  Until a team renames themselves the Sharknadoes.  Send me a free t-shirt when you do that, Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Feb 20, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari before the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 74-70. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

We all remember Big Blue Madness 2009 when John Calipari gave his stump speech. It is still one of my favorite moments of the Calipari era. In it, Calipari expressed his intention for UK to become the premier destination of college basketball. And just a few short years later, Calipari has accomplished that goal. 2014 recruit Craig Victor says it is all about UK.

 

Craig Victor, a well-regarded power forward in the high school class of 2014, continues to say that Calipari has achieved that goal. He said as much at the National Basketball Player’s Association Top 100 Camp in Virginia in June, then repeated himself at the Adidas Invitational here this week. Kentucky, he said, is “America’s team.” Much as the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are iconic sporting brands, so is UK basketball.

“That’s everybody’s dream, you know, to go there and play,” Victor said after a game here.

It’s Victor’s dream, and the Cats reportedly are interested, but not yet to the point of offering a scholarship. UK is taking a wait-and-continue-to-evaluate attitude, which probably explains assistant coach Orlando Antigua’s presence at Victor’s games here.

 

Mar 15, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari watches his team play against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. The Commodores beat the Wildcats 64-48. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Tyus Jones has not ruled Kentucky out, it’s starting to look like Emmanuel Mudiay may be John Calipari’s man in 2014. Mudiay talked about his recruitment recently, and Kentucky.

 

Mudiay said he’s trying to avoid focusing on coaches, but it was hard to miss Calipari and Brown sitting next to each other courtside. Both schools are in hot pursuit of the long, athletic point guard from Dallas Prime Prep.

“I noticed them, they wink at me here and there,” Mudiay said. “It will be a great opportunity to play for either of them, so when that decision time comes, I will see.”

As of now, Mudiay has only slated an official visit to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness Oct. 18.

“I know for sure I’m going to the Blue Madness thing out there in Kentucky,” Mudiay said.

Calipari’s track record with point guards — Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Marquis Teague — speaks for itself.

Kentucky has offered only two 2014 point guards in Mudiay and Tyus Jones, but the conventional wisdom is that Jones could end up at Duke.

“He’s coached so many great point guards so it’s crazy so if I was to go there it would be nothing new to him,” Mudiay said of Calipari. “He’s already used to the system. He’s great with putting guys in the league. That’s my dream, hopefully I can do that one day.”

 

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