As the arms race between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers continues to heat up, the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls keep volleying for dysfunctional supremacy, and fellow NBA Lone Star Russell Westbrook chases triple-double history, Anthony Davis has been lost in the shuffle.
But as the All-Star Game returns to New Orleans for the second time in his career, the Pelicans big man is getting more of the shine he deserves, and that comes with questions. Given his team’s lack of success since he arrived in 2012, Davis faced several inquiries about his future on a conference call with international media, and he insisted he hasn’t lost faith in the organization that drafted him.
“I don’t plan on leaving,” he said, via The Times-Picayune, ” so make sure you write that down.”
Davis signed a five-year, $127 million extension with New Orleans in 2015, and the Pelicans would be crazy to trade the 23-year-old at any point of that contract, so he can’t really leave until 2021 anyway. But four years is a long time. Just ask any of the many other NBA stars who have changed course.
The Pelicans have been an ineptly run franchise since before Davis arrived. They’ve made the playoffs just once with Davis, getting swept by the Golden State Warriors in 2015, and they’ve won no more than 34 games in his other four seasons. They’re 22-34 this season and trail four other teams in the race for the Western Conference’s eight seed. Davis points to injuries as the primary reason for their inadequacy the past two seasons, and he’s not totally wrong, but New Orleans also shelled out $106 million to Omer Asik and Solomon Hill through 2020, so there’s real concern things won’t improve.
New Orleans won’t have much cap space this summer, unless they renounce Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans in free agency, which would run the risk of striking out in free agency and coming back even worse next season. How that plays out is sure to lead to more and more speculation, like a recent unsubstantiated rumor claiming Davis and Westbrook planned to unite on the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I don’t pay attention to (the rumors),” Davis responded on the conference call, according to The Times-Picayune. “I don’t know who said it or how it came about. I’m with the Pelicans right now.”
“Right now” isn’t exactly a rock-solid commitment to a future in New Orleans, but I’m not even sure how a Davis-Westbrook tandem in L.A. could possibly happen until at least 2021, when we have no idea what the Lakers’ roster or salary structure will look like and Westbrook will be 33 years old.
Meanwhile, in a separate interview this week with Jared Zwerling for the National Basketball Players Association, Davis raved about his connection with New Orleans, both on the court and off. He loves everything from the seafood gumbo to Bourbon Street’s human Transformer to the rabid fans who approach him on the street just to say, “AD’s our savior,” and, “AD, you’re going to get us ring here?”
Now, that could still just all be lip service for the city he’ll almost surely spend the next four years in, but Davis has always seemed strangely tied to New Orleans, and he’s still trying to make it work.
“After All-Star, our team goal is definitely trying to make the playoffs, and once you do that, anything can happen,” he told Zwerling. “For me, MVP is on the list. We started off poorly this year and dug ourselves our hole, so we’ve got to try to get back in the mix. We’re right there.
“There was a lot of pressure coming to New Orleans as a rookie, and there still is a lot of pressure. It’s tough to go to the playoffs, and it’s definitely tough to win a championship. But I think we’re on that right path to do so.”
That’s real optimism in the face of long odds, and the same might be said about his plans to stay.
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