Anthony Davis had commenced his film studying last Friday afternoon, immersing into the nuances of Kevin Love, when everyone from friends to peers, teammates to family started percolating inside his phone. His first All-Star selection spread within the NBA, a flourishing 20-year-old star replacing a forever legend in Kobe Bryant, but Davis felt so strange about it all.
In his mind, Davis had to refrain from allowing his mind to wander into the distance about playing in the All-Star Game, about the parties and media availabilities sure to limit his family time. New Orleans hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Davis remembered his Pelicans teammates talking among each other of running with the opportunity on national television.
“I couldn’t focus on the news at all right there and then,” Davis told RealGM. “I had to get ready for a big game and get prepared for the game. After, I opened up my phone and saw a lot of congratulatory texts, so it was fun for me. But I had a game against Kevin Love, one of the best power forwards in the league.”
Love torched the Pelicans for 30 points and 14 rebounds just over a week earlier, a performance that Davis watched from the sideline because of a finger injury. Davis had gone to his Twitter that Friday afternoon, reposting some congratulatory messages his fans had sent, but promises the only way he could maintain focus was tucking away his phone.
So the film watching continued, and the tedious process of reviewing video has become increasingly vital in Davis’ preparation habits. He won the gold medal with USA Basketball in the Olympics two summers ago, nurtured into the program’s workout and film routine before his rookie season. How to handle this entire past summer was placed solely on him.
“I watched a lot of film, much more than my first year, to realize what opponents are doing and how to counter that,” Davis said. “You can see tendencies and new ways to react. Now, the next step is to keep countering, keep learning.”
With the depth of talent in the Western Conference, deserving candidates (Goran Dragic, Tim Duncan) on playoff teams, Adam Silver and the league office surveyed the choices and decided upon Davis last Friday morning. Beyond his extraordinary statistics for a second-year player – 20.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 blocks per game – Monty Williams admits: “Anthony has carried us most of the season.” For scouts, his athleticism is scary, his two-way abilities difficult to scheme.
The Pelicans have understood the significance of placing a sturdy center next to Davis, and Alexis Ajinca gives the coaching staff intrigue as a starter, with his size and offensive instincts. New Orleans is still searching for a player in the frontcourt and has one roster spot open, and a safe option could be Lou Amundson – who played 18 games with the organization this season before his release, and is continuing dialogue with other teams.
After practice on Tuesday, Davis had engaged in the Pelicans’ own dunk contest, ultimately facing Ajinca and constructing a pass bouncing off the wall and into a windmill slam. Anthony Morrow served as the hype man, and their posting of the dunk onto social media begged the question: Could Davis enter the dunk contest in the future?
“I don’t know, man,” Davis told RealGM. “Alexis called a dunk, then I called one. Alexis brought it over his head for a dunk, and then A-Mo said, ‘You have to one-up him, champ.’ I wasn’t expecting to make that dunk off the wall, and it blew up. I don’t know. I don’t know, man.”
Davis paused for a couple seconds, considering the possibilities his entrance would require, and widened a bright smile. “If LeBron [James] gets in it, I’ll get in it. I don’t got the legs that I used to. I don’t know if I’d get in it. It’d be fun to do, but I’ve already got a lot of commitments.”
Now, Davis returns to New Orleans and his first experience of a weekend complete with responsibilities. He cites Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry and LaMarcus Aldridge as model leaders on burgeoning teams. From family he visited after the Pelicans’ win in Milwaukee Wednesday, he received encouragement and advice on how to stay fresh. His first All-Star Game comes on Sunday, and Davis is treated as a little brother to most from his month as a teammate on Team USA.
“It’s probably loose for everybody else, but not for me,” Davis said. “Last year at the Rookie Rising Stars game, it was considered a loose situation and I got yelled at by coach. I don’t want to do anything unusual out there.
“I want to take in as much as I can, and bring it back to the team and make us better.”