CJ McCollum Sidelined by COVID for New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans and the Playoff Push

The New Orleans Pelicans, currently sitting at the #10 seed in the Western Conference playoff standings, are in a tight race to secure a spot in the postseason. However, their hopes of clinching a playoff berth have taken a hit with the news that CJ McCollum, one of their top scorers, has tested positive for COVID-19 and entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. This unfortunate turn of events has left the Pelicans facing a challenging situation as they strive to secure their playoff position.

A Tough Battle for the Pelicans

With a record of 27-39, the Pelicans have little room for error in their pursuit of a playoff spot. They currently trail the LA Lakers, who hold the #9 seed, by 2.5 games. Additionally, they face tough competition from teams on the bubble, such as the Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs. The Blazers find themselves just 1.5 games behind the Pelicans in the #11 spot, while the Spurs trail by a mere two games.

FiveThirtyEight Estimates: Chances of Making the Playoffs

According to FiveThirtyEight’s estimates, the Pelicans have a 28% chance of making the playoffs, while the Spurs have a 4% chance and the Blazers have a minuscule 0.8% chance. These odds highlight the importance of every game for the Pelicans as they fight to secure their postseason dreams.

CJ McCollum’s Impact on the Pelicans

CJ McCollum quickly established himself as a valuable asset for the New Orleans Pelicans after being acquired in a trade last month. In just 12 games with the team, McCollum has been an offensive force, averaging an impressive 27.1 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game. He has showcased his scoring ability by shooting an exceptional 52.7% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc.

Impressive Performances

Despite the Pelicans’ recent three-game losing streak, McCollum has remained a standout player. In consecutive games against the Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic, he scored 32 points each. Notably, in the game against the Grizzlies, he also recorded 11 assists alongside his 32 points. His performances have demonstrated his ability to go head-to-head with talented opponents like Ja Morant and make a significant impact on the court.

Dealing with the Absence of McCollum and Ingram

The Pelicans face an additional challenge as they must cope without the services of Brandon Ingram, who is sidelined with a strained hamstring. The absence of both McCollum and Ingram significantly impacts the team’s offensive capabilities, leaving them searching for alternative scoring options.

A Burden on Valanciunas

With McCollum and Ingram out, much of the scoring burden falls on the shoulders of Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas, who averages 17.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, has proven himself as one of the league’s top rebounders. The Pelicans will look to him to fill the void left by McCollum and Ingram and provide a consistent offensive presence on the court.

Changes to the Lineup

To compensate for Ingram’s absence, the Pelicans have turned to Tony Snell as a starter in the previous two games. Additionally, they have implemented a bigger lineup, with just one guard on the court. These adjustments aim to optimize the team’s performance and provide some stability amidst the absence of key players.

Zion Williamson’s Return

In the midst of these challenges, the Pelicans have received some positive news. Zion Williamson, the former #1 pick in the NBA draft, has returned to New Orleans and resumed workouts with the team. Although it remains uncertain whether Zion will play again this season, his presence and dedication to his teammates provide a glimmer of hope. Previously rehabbing his foot injury in Portland, Zion’s return to the Pelicans signifies a renewed commitment to his squad and their efforts.

A Conclusion to the Season

As the regular season winds down, the New Orleans Pelicans find themselves in a pivotal moment. The absence of CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram poses a significant challenge to their playoff aspirations. However, the team remains determined to weather this storm and secure their place in the postseason. The stakes are high, and every game becomes crucial. The Pelicans must adapt their strategy, leverage the strengths of their remaining players, and maintain their focus as they push towards the playoffs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Will CJ McCollum return before the playoffs?

As CJ McCollum tests positive for COVID-19 and enters the health and safety protocols, the timeline for his return remains uncertain. The team will closely monitor his progress and adhere to the necessary protocols to ensure his safety and the safety of others. The priority is his health and well-being, and any decision regarding his return will be made with caution.

2. How will the absence of CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram impact the Pelicans’ playoff chances?

Losing both CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram, two key contributors, undoubtedly creates challenges for the Pelicans. Their absence affects the team’s offensive firepower and overall depth. However, the Pelicans have a talented roster with players like Jonas Valanciunas and Devonte’ Graham who can step up and fill the void. The team will need to rally together, make adjustments, and continue to compete at a high level to overcome the absence of these key players.

3. Is Zion Williamson expected to play this season?

While Zion Williamson has returned to New Orleans and resumed workouts with the team, there is no definitive answer regarding his availability for the remainder of the season. His return to the court will be contingent on his rehabilitation progress, medical clearance, and the team’s evaluation of his readiness to play. The Pelicans will prioritize his long-term health and take a cautious approach when considering his return.

4. How do the Pelicans compare to their playoff competitors?

The Pelicans find themselves in a closely contested battle for a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference. While they currently hold the #10 seed, they face fierce competition from teams like the LA Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers, and the San Antonio Spurs. The outcome of each game and the success of the Pelicans’ remaining schedule will have a significant impact on their final playoff positioning.

5. What other factors will influence the Pelicans’ playoff chances?

In addition to the absence of CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram, several other factors will influence the Pelicans’ playoff chances. The team’s ability to maintain a cohesive and resilient mentality, make effective in-game adjustments, and capitalize on opportunities will all play pivotal roles in determining their success. Furthermore, factors such as injuries to key players on opposing teams, scheduling details, and the performance of other playoff contenders will also impact the Pelicans’ playoff aspirations.

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Doug I. Jones

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