The New Orleans Pelicans made by far the biggest splash at the NBA trade deadline, acquiring DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento in a heist that would make Danny Ocean blush. They thought they had their dream match for Anthony Davis, and they went for the home run ball. But is there trouble in paradise?
The hype is definitely there. “Boogie and The Brow.” Two of the best big men, if not the two best big men, in the NBA, starting in one front court. Both with the potential to put up video game numbers on any given night. In the six games with Davis and Cousins on the court together, though, the Pels are a lousy 1-5, with their only win against the lowly Lakers. So what’s the problem?
Ah, at long last, HTWHW returns to sports.
There are some very real, very technical problems and solutions being proposed by “experts” about why the Pelicans haven’t succeeded with their front court tandem. “It takes time.” “They need to develop chemistry.” “They need to adjust their scheme.” I’ve heard it all, and quite frankly, it’s all a bunch of malarkey. Sure, Boogie looked incredibly frustrated in overtime against the Spurs last Friday night, as he was essentially iced out by his own team. But it took me about 3 minutes of watching that game to uncover the real issue.
Let’s break it down:
Not-So-Hot-Take: Something is wrong with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Hot Take: I know what’s wrong with the New Orleans Pelicans.
I Should’ve Stayed Out of the Kitchen It’s So Hot Take: The issue with the Pelicans is not function, but fashion. You can’t be a championship contender if two of your players wear t-shirts under their jerseys. Period.
First, I will call on an important mantra amongst beer league, intramural, club, and washed-up athletes everywhere: “Look Good, Play Great.”
4 words. So simple. But they offer so much detail into the mind of an athlete. Any competitor worth his (or her) weight in salt knows that, by dressing like the pros, you feel as though you can accomplish anything (or you look like a major asshole. Usually both.)
I mention this mantra because, to put it simply, the Pelicans don’t look good. Naturally, that means they won’t play great. As I was watching the New Orleans game the other night, my eyes were quickly drawn to something: both Boogie Cousins AND Anthony Davis were wearing short sleeves under their jerseys. Short sleeves. Under. Their. Jerseys.
“But Max, why does this matter?” I’m so glad you asked.
First off, short sleeves under basketball jerseys are reserved for a few occasions: CYO Basketball before the age of 13, goofy white people playing pickup, college basketball centers that haven’t grown into their bodies yet… and that’s generally it. On occasion, it does happen that skilled players will wear short sleeves under their jerseys, typically in college.
Naturally, I give an exception to Patrick Ewing, because a) he brought Georgetown their lone NCAA Championship, in the glory days of Hoya basketball; b) he’s one scary mofo; c) he stopped wearing short sleeves once he got to the NBA; and d) it was the 80’s. Have you seen their shorts?
Likewise, I would probably give a pass to Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins individually. It’s so rare that you see an NBA superstar wearing short sleeves, I’m just not used to it. Mostly, you hear superstars complaining when they have to wear their alternate short-sleeved jerseys, on special occasions like Christmas.
To dig into this conundrum, I did some research. I focused on two factors:
- Does wearing short sleeves seem to impact NBA abilities?
- Can contenders have multiple players wearing short sleeves?
To answer the first part, I looked at the NBA All-Star rosters from this year, to see which participants typically (or even occasionally) play in short sleeves. The answer? Just two. Cousins and Davis. That’s it. Now, both players are having phenomenal seasons, as always. So it doesn’t seem as though the sleeves are necessarily affecting their individual performance. No Space-Jam-Alien Syndrome here. Part 2 is where things get interesting.
Expanding my search, I lackadaisically and haphazardly went through the starting lineups of all 30 NBA teams, trying to see which teams, if any, start multiple undershirt-wearers. The only other team that starts two key players that, at least on occasion, wear short-sleeves under their jerseys? THE New York Knicks! The team is a bit of a dumpster fire this year, and both Carmelo Anthony (sporting the rare short-sleeve and double shooting-sleeve combo) and Kristaps Porzingis have bucked tradition this season.
That’s it. Just those two teams. And let’s face it, there are very few conversations that you want to be associated with the Knicks in this season. So what could possibly be the connection to short-sleeves and losing?
Again, the simple answer has to be, it just doesn’t look very good. You can’t have swagger while wearing a Hanes undershirt under your jersey (sorry, MJ). It just doesn’t work that way. And the NBA is a league built on swagger. Even though Davis and Boogie are wearing cool, hi-tech, form-fitting undershirts, they still look like that out-of-shape dude at the gym who wanted to show off his throwback NBA jersey while playing pickup.
Sure, it’s true I would’ve been scared shitless to play basketball against Patrick Ewing. But I’d also be terrified to play a game of Battleship against Ewing. He’s a legend, and a winner. He’s the exception, not the rule.
Boogie and The Brow are two of the best centers I’ve ever watched play, no doubt about it. They can both truly be unstoppable. They both have the ability to carry their team for long stretches. But, maybe before the Pelicans change schemes, at least one of their stars should just change outfits.
Images: Sports Illustrated, SLAMOnline, The Odyssey