The trio responsible for the New Orleans Pelicans’ unlikely playoff run

IT IS JUSTAfter midnight, Nazanin Alvarado, a 2-year-old girl from Nazanin, takes the podium along with her father. New Orleans PelicansGuard Jose AlvaradoImmediately following Sunday's Game 4 winThe Phoenix Suns.

In a white Tshirt that says “My heart's on that court”, and with high pigtails, she starts the news conference on her dad's lap. While her father waits for the first question to be asked, she grabs the microphone and prepares to address the media.

Jose takes the mic from her and begins to speak. He is ready to discuss the team’s 15-point win over the conference's No. 1 seed. Nazanin sat still for about four seconds. Then she decides to quit and gets up. She then moves to the back of her room, where her father attempts to answer any media questions.

In less than 30 seconds she's back at podium and is seated on her father's lap laughing. She's back in the podium within ten seconds.

Alvarado tells a relative, sitting nearby, “Hey, get it please,” “Hey! No more running around.”

It is easy to see her source of energy. Her father, now known for his aggressive defense and swarming tactics, had just harassed the Suns on court minutes earlier.

Alvarado is only one Pelicans rookie to have electrified the team this season. He was not drafted. Alvarado was on a 2-way contract until he got a four-year dealMarch Herbert JonesA second-round selection, he started 68 of the 79 games and could make it onto the NBA All Defensive Team this season. Their first-round selection Trey Murphy IIIThis season, he was the top rookie among all players who attempted at most 100 treys.

Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollumNew Orleans' revival was made possible by Willie Green, coach. The rookie class was crucial to the Pelicans' success, as they could not have moved from the 1-12 mark to open the season to the top seed and into Thursday's Game 6, without them.

Green stated that “We won't get to this point without our young men,” ahead of Tuesday's Game 5. 112-97 lossThe Suns. “All of those guys played meaningful games, and they're now ready for the moment.”

ROOKIESThe Pelicans' season turnaround was made possible by their support.

Murphy was the No. The No. 17 pick in last years draft had been regularly used to open the season, but his minutes were cut after the team scored just one win over the first thirteen games.

Murphy was about to head down to the G League when Ingram injured his hamstring. This opened up the rotation.

Murphy averaged 9.7 point per game and shot 43.8% deep over the 17 remaining games of the regular-season. New Orleans was making its playoff run.

The winner-takes-all tournament against the LA ClippersMurphy hit four 3-pointers within the last 16 minutes of the Pelicans' come-from-behind win to secure the No. 8 seed.

Murphy said, “It is pretty cool because there have been struggles that I had shooting the ball earlier and being able to overcome them in a really, really big win for our team was really important for me.”

Jones was also the defensive stopper for the Pelicans, and was named the SEC Player/Defensive Player of Year at Alabama. It was hoped that Jones' offensive game would improve.

New Orleans didn’t even start him last year in summer league — rather, it started Kira Lewis, Didi Louzada, Murphy, Naji Marshall Anzejs Pasecniks— Jones and Alvarado will be removed from the bench.

They fell in love instantly with his play. Pre-training camp workouts were buzzing with excitement, and the buzz was accompanied by a catchphrase that would quickly go viral.

Not on Herb.

After Josh HartJones sustained an injury in the Pelicans' opening game. Jones quickly was inserted into the starting line-up and began drawing their best perimeter offensive player each night. Jones actually defended 2022 All-Stars during 1,192 halfcourt matchups, the second most in the league after only Dorian Finney-Smith, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Jones said that it was different to be thrown in the fire so early. I feel like you are just forced to adjust and figure it all out. My teammates were great at helping me. My coaches helped me adapt as quickly as possible.

JUST UNDERWith nine minutes remaining in Game 2, the Pelicans were up 95-92. Murphy received a pass from McCollum on the left wing and attempted a jumper for New Orleans to increase their lead. Suns ahead, the shot was not good. Cameron JohnsonQuickly, he grabbed the rebound and threw it away Chris Paul.

Alvarado was waiting near the bench of the Pelicans, ready to perform his trademark steal on the Point God.

Paul said, “Get ya back,” while he lifted his arm above the court.

Multiple times this season, the pesky guard has hid in the corner after a Pelicans possession — misses or makes — and then sprung upon an unsuspecting player to poke the ball away (or force a travel).

The 6-foot guard has been well-known for being sneaky. His AAU coach said it wouldn't work in high school. It wouldn't work in college, said his high school coach. It would not work in the NBA, according to his coaches at Georgia Tech.

Alvarado has tried the technique at every level. It has worked at every level.

McCollum had warned Paul before the first round that it wouldn't work for him.

In Game 2, Paul was ready to take on Alvarado. But in Game 4, Alvarado got his revenge.

With just 2:40 remaining in the game, and the Pelicans comfortably ahead, Ingram drove to Ingram's basket and cranked a contested jumper. Phoenix forward Mikal BridgesHe grabbed the rebound, and then tossed it off to a Paul as he turned to face the court.

Alvarado waited. He was hiding in the baseline corner near the Pelicans bench. He took off behind Paul to force the steal. Alvarado screamed at the top his lungs as Ingram grabbed the ball and hit a Jones cutting Jones to get the basket.

Alvarado stated, “I saw CJ. I told him that I got him” and he laughed.

The Pelicans are the latest playoff team since 2005. Boston Celtics2005 Chicago Bulls with three rookies to play more than 80 minutes in a series, and are on pace to become the first team since the 2005 Bulls with three rookies to play more than 100 minutes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

This trio of rookies is crucial if New Orleans hopes to send the series back to Phoenix for Game 7.

Ingram declared, “They're the foundation,” after Tuesday's Game 5 defeat. They give us energy every day, every game, and every practice. They are consistent in being who they are and consistent in their work. We will continue to look after them as we try to make this run, shooting basketball, on defense, and making plays.

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