Lewis: Strong second-half start, deadline move out of Pelicans’ reach

So, the only makeover the Pelicans pulled off before Thursday’s trade deadline was performed on Pierre.

And I’m talking about Pierre the Pelican here — not Pierre Jackson, who had been in D-League purgatory because either the big team doesn’t need him or apparently it didn’t get a good enough offer to deal him. Apparently Jackson is bound for Fenerbahce in the Turkish pro league.

There wasn’t much the Pelicans could have done to improve the current roster unless they could have convinced Carmelo Anthony to stick around New Orleans following his 30-point All-Star performance Sunday and Wednesday’s 42-point outburst in New York’s 98-91 victory in the Smoothie King Center.

They might also have reminded Melo that he was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2003 Final Four next door in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, so this is a good spot for him should he opt out of his contract this summer.

Sorry. Wishful thinking makes me digress.

Anyway, there either wasn’t the will or the way to get a 2014 first-round pick, which the team won’t have unless it finishes with the fifth or worse record in the league. At present, they’re 5½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento for that distinction.

Of course, the team’s original No. 1 pick for ’14 was dealt to Philadelphia last year with the rights to Nerlens Noel for Jrue Holiday. It was part of an aggressive move by the team to move into playoff contention sooner rather than later.

But Holiday has been out since Jan. 10 with a fractured tibia, although his return is supposed to be imminent. Obviously those things happen, as did the season-ending injuries to Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith — which, Pelicans coach Monty Williams pointed out, meant the loss of 51 hard-to-replace points.

But on Thursday, Williams also was expressing a tinge of buyer’s remorse.

“You always need draft picks,” he said. “But that’s easier said than done. We made a decision to use our picks to get Jrue, and right now it probably doesn’t look as good because Jrue’s hurt. But we think in the long run, it’s going to help us.”

Well, we’ll see.

Immediately more disconcerting was the way the team began its post-All-Star run.

While a playoff berth was pretty much out the question, the Pelicans had won six of 10 before the break and were talking about group and individual improvement over the final 30 games of the season.

It’s never wise to put too much emphasis on one game, but a prime opportunity was squandered.

The Pelicans had an extra day to get ready because the arena was being restored after the All-Star Game. And in the supposedly dysfunctional Knicks, they were facing a team on the second half of a road back-to-back that began with them folding in the final five minutes the night before in a 98-93 loss at Memphis.

Not only that, but because of fog in New Orleans, the team didn’t arrive here until Wednesday morning.

But, in the final minutes, after the Pelicans had overcome a 13-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, it was Melo and his teammates scoring the game’s last eight points over the final 2:01.

“It was gut-check time,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler said. “Right now, we’re still fighting for something.”

Supposedly that’s also true for the Pelicans. But familiar problems arose Wednesday.

Eric Gordon scored 28 points in the first three quarters. But after sitting for the first eight minutes of the fourth, Gordon, who has shown a propensity for fading down the stretch, contributed only two air balls for the rest of the game.

And Tyreke Evans continued to be inconsistent: He made only 3 of 11 shots and 2 of 6 free throws, committed four fouls and had four turnovers to two assists. Not what you need from the $44 million second half of last summer’s wheeling and dealing.

Even Anthony Davis came up short with no points on 0-for-1 shooting and two rebounds in the fourth quarter.

There were bright spots. Austin Rivers, one of those supposed trade possibilities that didn’t come to fruition, continued his improved play with 14 crowd-pleasing points. And newly acquired Luke Babbitt had all of his seven points and four rebounds while playing the entire fourth quarter.

But that just goes to show how much the team is in need of a scoring threat at small forward. Starter Al-Farouq Aminu (7.4 points per game) sat out the final period in favor of Babbitt. You can rest assured that getting a reliable 3 will be the top priority of the offseason.

But between now and then, there are 29 games left. And the outlook isn’t bright.

Of those 29 games, 21 are against Western Conference foes vs. whom the Pelicans are 9-22 so far. They’re 1-11 against Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland — the top five teams in the conference — with 10 games remaining against that quintet.

A back-to-back at resurgent Charlotte and Washington on Friday and Saturday begins a stretch of seven road games out of the next eight between now and Fat Tuesday.

Enjoy Carnival, fellas.

Hey, at least Pierre’s looking better.