Whirlwind tour over; time for Rivers, Davis to learn Hornets system
“I’m doing this for a living now, and I have to make sure I’m ready at all times.” Anthony DAvis, New Orleans Hornets forward
NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis began the week as the toast of New York when he arrived as the anticipated No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
The former Kentucky forward was the center of attention when he officially became a New Orleans Hornet as the draft got under way Thursday night.
He and new teammate Austin Rivers, the Duke guard whom the Hornets selected nine spots after Davis, were whisked to the Crescent City on new owner Tom Benson’s private jet Friday morning. They made a cameo appearance at veteran forward Jason Smith’s basketball camp before being introduced at a noon press conference inside the New Orleans Arena.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Davis said. “I need to get some sleep. I’m working on about 30 minutes’ sleep. It’s all been fun, and I’m trying to take it all in. I’m ready to get back in the gym and start working on learning the system. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I’m prepared for it.”
Hornets coach Monty Williams said he was prepared to put Davis and Rivers on the practice court Friday, but pushed it back a day “because they’ve had so much going on.”
He joked that Friday might have been “the last day they like me” once they see how hard he’ll work them.
“They need to understand how hard we work,” Williams said. “Nobody really knows how hard we work because I’ve seen guys come here, and after their first practice, they say, ‘Gosh, these guys are nuts.’ I want them to get over that right away and start to learn our signals.
“We talk a lot about guys respecting the game and respecting the way we want to play. We felt we had to bring in guys who fit that, guys who come from championship programs and are willing to put up with a two-hour practice when we’re playing the next day, guys who understand the kind of intensity they have to have. Yet these guys are young and it’s going to take a while before they understand what they need to do.”
Williams said he’ll have Smith and veteran forward Lance Thomas on hand to work with the two rookies.
“It’ll be good to have those two guys,” Williams said. “They know what to do and when you watch guys doing it, it’s a lot easier to learn.”
Davis won’t be staying long though because he’s due in Las Vegas on Thursday to participate in tryouts for the U.S. Olympic team. If Davis makes the Olympic team, he’ll miss the Summer League season, which Williams and General Manager Dell Demps said would be fine with them.
“Any time (you) have a chance to represent your country, I think it’s great,” Demps said. “It doesn’t happen very often.”
Davis said he never expected to have an opportunity to perhaps play in the Olympics before he plays in his first NBA game, and the experience will be worthwhile whether he makes the final cut or not.
Team USA is coached by Rivers’ college coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.
“It’s a great opportunity to get an edge playing with the superstars in this league,” Davis said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to see things I’ve never seen before. I can’t wait to get down there and meet coach K and play with guys who have already played in the league and made a name for themselves.
“I want to see how they work out, what they do before a game, what they do after a game, how they take care of their bodies, what they eat. They’re there for a reason. They’re the best players in the NBA, and I want to become one of them.”
Davis (6-foot-11, 235 pounds) said one of his first priorities is “getting bigger and getting in great NBA shape, not just great shape.”
“The pace of the game is a lot faster, and the physicality — it’s very high,” Davis said. “I’m doing this for a living now, and I have to make sure I’m ready at all times.”
Davis chided Rivers by reminding him that Kentucky won the NCAA title at the Superdome in April, and “we’re coming back to try and win an NBA championship with the Hornets.”
Rivers, a son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, said he’s OK with the spotlight normally reserved for a lottery pick such as himself being dimmed by the presence of the No. 1 overall pick on the same team.
“Whether I was the man or not was fine with me,” Rivers said. “I was used to it at Duke, and I’ve never viewed it as pressure. It’s all I know. I’ve played basketball all my life. I know what I need to do to be successful, but I still have to do it. It’s a man’s league. These are players I’ve idolized all my life. I’ve got to earn it.
“There’s no doubt this was the city I wanted to play in. There’s no doubt this is a team on the rise.”
Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints, was beaming as he introduced both players and posed for pictures with them.
“This is a great day for New Orleans,” Benson said. “It’s a great day for these players. It’s a great day for me. What an exciting way to get started by getting two great players.
“It seems like every day lately, we’re getting more excited about basketball. This is just the start of what’s going to be happening, just like with the Saints. We recently won a Super Bowl, and we’ve been to the playoffs three straight years. That’s what’s going to happen with this team, and it’s going to happen real soon too.”
Second-round draft choice Darius Miller did not attend the news conference. … Demps said the Hornets plan to add a center through a trade or free agency, which begins Sunday. The team doesn’t have a true center under contract after trading Emeka Okafor to Washington last week. … Demps said the franchise will decide in “the next 24 to 48 hours” what to do with F Rashard Lewis, who was acquired in the Okafor trade. The team is expected to terminate Lewis’ $23.7 million contract before Sunday.