Pelicans star becoming one of NBA’s best big men
After playing 47 minutes, 42 seconds in a spectacular performance Sunday, Anthony Davis was back at practice with his New Orleans Pelicans teammates Monday.
And in his second season in the NBA, he had a better perspective and appreciation of what it means to be one of the league’s stars. Davis scored 40 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked three shots, and the Pelicans (27-39) held on to edge the Boston Celtics 121-120 in overtime, the Pelicans’ fourth win in six games on this homestand.
It was the sixth game in a stretch in which he has scored at least 28 points, a franchise record, and in which he has averaged 32.3 points on 57.9 percent shooting, 87 percent on free throws (54-of-62), 14.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. And he has made his past 29 free throws, spanning three games.
“It’s been amazing,” said Davis, who upped his scoring average a point to 21.4. “I see what LeBron (James) and Kevin Durant and Kobe (Bryant), all those guys do, (Carmelo Anthony), night in and night out. It’s tough to put up numbers like that.
“I’m just trying to have fun with it, but more important, I just want to get more wins.”
Davis’ performances of late have gained him comparison to James and Durant. ESPN analyst Steve Kerr said that in the next few years, Davis will be mentioned as one of the three best players in the league.
“I would love that,” Davis said. “I have a lot of work to do, a lot to improve on. … The shots that I miss are wide open. Missed free throws. Playing slower from the block. It’s a lot of stuff I want to work on to get better.
“That comes with time. Can’t force it, can’t rush it. Just have to let it happen.”
A big part of the success of his recent play is that he is learning how to be a consummate professional.
“I’ve been playing with a lot of energy, playing with high energy,” he said. “I’ve been taking care of my body, able to run the floor, getting easy looks. I make sure I keep that energy running the floor, getting my teammate shots. That always helps.”
Coach Monty Williams said Davis’ performance Wednesday was one of the better ones he’s seen as a head coach. Only eight players have gone 40/20/3 in NBA history.
“To have a guy go for those type of numbers, hit shots to help you win the game, and to do it within the scheme of the team is impressive,” Williams said. “And his defense picked up as the game wore on. He would admit that he was not on his game on that side of the floor (at the outset). …
“I pick at his game, but that to me is how we’re going make him a great player, is that you don’t leave any stone unturned. And when you think of his game (Sunday) night, you see him cover every base.”
Davis’ defense — he leads the league in blocks at 2.91 per game — is more in keeping with what he did when he led Kentucky to the 2012 national championship as a freshman and led to his being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
And it was his defense, oddly, that first put him in the mix with James and Durant as a potential top player. That came from USA Olympics coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“Coach K remarked about that last year at the national team (practices),” Williams said. “(Davis) is the only guy in the league who can change a game and not score a point.
“He has shown this year that offensively, he can be just as efficient and as good as those guys. Now you’re talking about Durant and LeBron, who have the ability to go for 50 or 60 (points). But that’s different. But I certainly think at — he just turned 21 — and there’s only been a few guys who have been able to do that at his age.”
Williams said no one expected Davis’ offensive prowess. The only inkling, Williams said, was that he noticed Davis’ footwork when he first came to New Orleans.
“The only thing that we changed was his shot this summer,” Williams said. “When he shot, he had his hand on his head a lot. We told him to get his hand off his head and raise it above his head a little bit, and he would get more consistent with his jump shot.”
A hot touch from outside has keyed his recent run. His 40 points marked the second consecutive game he scored a career high, after hitting 36 on Friday. He had tied his career high with 32 against Denver on Monday.
With that kind of production, Davis said: “I’m sure coach will run more sets for me.”
Williams said that’s already been taking place.
“I do run a lot of sets for him,” Williams said. “But dare I say the times he outruns everybody and gets a dunk, offensive rebounding, the times when he makes his own read, that’s just him. We run stuff for him, but a lot of it is just work.
“He has a lot to his game, and he’s getting used to the grind of being that kind of player.”