CHICAGO – Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin was a busy man Tuesday evening, so you’ll have to forgive him if it took some time for Griffin to respond to your congratulatory text. During a post-lottery conference call with New Orleans media members, at one point Griffin noted that he eventually hoped to make a dent in the 268 unopened messages displayed on his cell phone.
Before Griffin could attack those, however, he watched a 30-second video filmed inside New Orleans’ offices, a clip in which a few dozen Pelicans ticketing employees crowded into a meeting room, exploding with joy upon learning that their team had landed the No. 1 pick in the June 20 NBA draft. As of Wednesday afternoon, that original video piled up over 3.6 million views from New Orleans’ official Twitter account – which doesn’t include how many times it was watched by those who tuned in Wednesday to ESPN’s programming and countless other networks.
“I think you saw what happened in the sales office emotionally,” Griffin said, when asked about the impact of Tuesday’s win. “What it’s doing to the franchise and to the city of New Orleans is probably not even measurable right at this moment. I think there is a groundswell of excitement that frankly is palpable. And because of that, I think several good things start to happen. It’s about positive energy breeding more positive energy.”
There was at least one tangible way to measure Tuesday’s lottery result, as staff members filled requests for over 2,500 season tickets in less than a 24-hour period. In between conducting a series of interviews at the Chicago Hilton hotel, Griffin found time to call New Orleans employees who were manning the phones in the franchise’s Metairie offices.
Meanwhile, Pelicans fans across Louisiana and the Gulf South posted videos on social media of their raucous celebrations and emotional reactions when NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum opened the envelope containing Memphis’ logo at the No. 2 pick, giving New Orleans the top choice. Duke forward Zion Williamson is the overwhelming consensus name atop the boards of draft analysts.
“I think you can tell that our fan base has really received this well, and it’s incredibly deserved,” Griffin said of the overwhelming enthusiasm. “I’m excited for our fan base, that they get to experience this. What has to come next is we have to make it mean something. This is a lot of fun, but we’ve got to build a winner.”
Among Griffin’s hundreds of incoming text messages were many from Pelicans veteran players, including guard Jrue Holiday, who was pleased by the outcome.
“We’ve heard from several guys and they are excited, with Jrue chief among them,” Griffin said of the team’s players. “Jrue reached out directly to both Coach (Alvin Gentry) and I, and is truly bought in at a level that you wish all great players would be, to what we’re trying to build.”
While addressing questions from local media about New Orleans’ offseason plans and how those may have changed based on the stunning lottery win, Griffin noted that the approach will remain the same, featuring a focus on gradual improvement. He acknowledged, however, that it was impossible to ignore the boost from securing the coveted No. 1 overall draft pick.
“It certainly jump-starts the process, from the standpoint of expectation and excitement,” Griffin said of the lottery. “Again, moments like these are fantastic, but if they are isolated in a vacuum, they don’t mean that much. This needs to be another positive step, and we need take another positive step tomorrow. We need to stack those victories on top of each other and hopefully it starts to mean something.
“This is just one more positive chip.”