Pelicans Rumors: Stan Van Gundy's Job Not in Jeopardy Despite 5-10 Start

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy walks along the bench in the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks in New Orleans, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

While the New Orleans Pelicans are well off a playoff pace to open the 2020-21 NBA season, head coach Stan Van Gundy doesn't appear to be on the hot seat.

At 5-10, New Orleans is 14th in the Western Conference. Still, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Tuesday the Pelicans "have so far been pleased with Van Gundy's job early this season."

Charania also alluded to how Van Gundy wouldn't be judged purely on the team's record: "When the Pelicans hired Stan Van Gundy as the new head coach, [Brandon] Ingram and [Zion] Williamson expressed strong desires to have the veteran coach come in and set the tone for accountability."

Even after trading Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pelicans showed a level of urgency heading into last year. They acquired Derrick Favors and signed JJ Redick, which seemed to display a desire to reach the postseason.

After missing out, New Orleans took a slight step backward this offseason.

Favors left as a free agent, and Jrue Holiday was sent to the Milwaukee Bucks in a trade that netted the team two first-round picks, swap rights for two other first-round picks, Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe. While the Pelicans weren't bottoming out, they appeared to be hitting the reset button.

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In addition, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor explained how this is a flawed roster despite having brought in a pair of notable experienced veterans:

"Van Gundy's results have been mixed so far, but he also hasn't been dealt the best hand for immediate success. In addition to not providing much help defensively, the supporting cast hasn't given Ingram and Williamson much space to score. The Pelicans rank 20th in offensive rating, worse than last season, and they're in the bottom four in both 3-point percentage and attempts. Steady veterans like JJ Redick and Josh Hart are unusually cold shooting the ball. Second-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has provided an encouraging spark off the bench, but he's inconsistent. Bledsoe doesn’t threaten the defense from behind the arc, and Ball can't find the net. This season, Ball has made only 29.1 percent of his 3s. His strength as an open-court playmaker also has been neutered in Van Gundy's slower-paced offense."

Van Gundy and David Griffin, the Pelicans' executive vice president of basketball operations, didn't have the opportunity to build around or coach Davis, thus they weren't really around as his frustration with losing season after losing season grew.

Still, everyone inside the organization is aware of the ticking clock with regard to Ingram and Williamson, the former in particular. His five-year, $158.3 million extension runs through 2025.

Falling short of expectations in 2021 isn't a significant setback if it's in service to something larger. As long as Van Gundy is laying the groundwork in terms of the team's performance, you trust Griffin to make the most of the Pelicans' bounty of draft picks.