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Anthony Davis, Alvin Gentry and rest of New Orleans Pelicans deserve more respect, friendlier whistles from NBA referees

New Orleans has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the league — the team is simply not getting their due!!!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Respect is a tricky thing. You’ve either got it or you don’t, and right now, it’s ridiculously evident that Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans sadly fall into the do not have category.

Let’s start with the man of the hour, the head coach who famously hit his breaking point inside the concrete walls of the Smoothie King Center on Saturday night with the Houston Rockets in town — and don’t forget — the figurehead who had consistently been unceremoniously booed by fans before the start of games.

Through 68 games of this regular season schedule, Alvin Gentry consistently endured watching his superstar not enjoy the same level of respect as his peers, and in the 69th, Davis was once again getting bullied on his home floor. No, it wasn’t DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert, or some physical behemoth utilizing the sheer space he occupies on the court to keep Davis at bay, it was Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker — even I-really-don’t-want-to-guard-anyone James Harden — giving AD all sorts of grief. Davis, who measures around seven feet tall, weighs in the range of 250 pounds, and is one of the most spectacular athletes in the game today, was all too often grounded by the pushing, shoving, grabbing and hooking. Yes, he still put up a fine line of 26 points and 13 rebounds, but it should have been more. Much more if the law of the land remains the NBA Official Rule Book and Rule 12B that concerns personal fouls.

Conversely, as to where AD had trouble physically maneuvering around on the floor, Harden was given the benefit of the doubt following the most obscene matter of circumstances. After Clint Capela clearly had both feet touching out of bounds while possessing the ball, the Rockets were able to maintain possession and Harden was opposed by Jrue Holiday in the corner. As replay demonstrates, Holiday had one arm crossed across his chest. Why? So as to not be caught by Harden’s oft-seen swing through. Yet, the referee blew the whistle.

Whether Holiday ever so slightly grazed Harden’s hand going by with the fingers of his other hand is practically irrelevant after witnessing all of the physicality beforehand. (FWIW, Harden never flinched on the shot nor did Holiday ever truly appear to touch him.) How is it that all the contact between players isn’t graded and enforced equally across the board? Why is there a preference shown to jump shooters than those battling for scores in the paint? Why do some simply enjoy a higher frequency of whistles based on reputation alone? And why on earth are officials allowed to be badgered incessantly by the whiners, almost lending to being swayed by those who yell the most often and loudest?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years under David Stern and present Commissioner Adam Silver, it’s that image is a priority to the league, both on and off the court. Excessive player celebrations and taunts are frowned upon alike. The NBA dress code has been in existence for years, demanding solidarity in the form of business casual attire. When public policy has demanded it, the association has always supported the high moral ground. So why do the complainers get more favorable opinions from those entrusted to keep the game as fair as possible than it’s true upstanding citizens, like Anthony Davis, like Jrue Holiday?

Since the start of March, Davis is averaging 4.3 free throw attempts a contest. That’s a far cry from his 7.8 FTA average on the season. Hell, Davis has been living inside the paint at an even greater clip — 9.4 attempts in the restricted area in March vs. 8.2 attempts on the season. He is still drawing double and triple teams like few others, especially since DeMarcus Cousins tore his Achilles. No, there’s no way I buy that in his sixth season, in this particular month, opponents have figured out ways to legally, more times than not, snuff out AD offensive possessions.

And hey, the numbers look infinitely worse from a team standpoint.

Check out this following chart that lists the teams who were leading the league in shot attempts inside the restricted area before Boogie’s injury and tell me with a straight face that some of this data doesn’t strike a major nerve. (Rankings among the league are in parenthesis and BCI = Before Cousin’s injury, ACI = After Cousin’s injury)

Shots inside restricted area (BCI) Free throw rate (BCI) Shots inside restricted area (ACI) Free throw rate (ACI)
Lakers 34.5 (1) .260 (14) 31.3 (4) .254 (15)
Clippers 31.6 (2) .304 (2) 33.7 (1) .283 (5)
Pelicans 30.0 (3) .265 (12) 31.5 (3) .197 (29)
Grizzlies 29.3 (4) .276 (8) 26.4 (19) .232 (23)
Suns 29.0 (5) .287 (6) 31.0 (5) .264 (8)

Criminal, right?

The New Orleans Pelicans are actually attempting more shots inside of the restricted area since Cousins was finished for the year, yet only the Sacramento Kings are having more trouble at getting to the charity stripe! Before Boogie’s injury, the Pelicans were averaging 22.6 free throw attempts a game. Since, that number has dropped to 18.6 FTA, and it’s sitting a laughable 14.4 FTA for the month of March!!! I’m not sure what game the referees are watching, but only three teams have bested New Orleans in restricted shot attempts this month, so what gives???

If there’s one comparison I want you to notice, it’s the Clippers, who traded away Blake Griffin to the Pistons before the trade deadline. Notice how they haven’t skipped a beat despite directly replacing Griffin’s 6.6 FTA average with Tobias Harris’ 2.7 FTA.

Can someone please explain why the Pelicans are not receiving their due for taking the ball into forests of defenders like all of the other aggressive teams? Why is it that Anthony Davis can be shoved at every turn while James Harden receives I-think-I-saw-something whistles? Why is it that a blood seeping out of Jrue Holiday can’t even draw a foul call? Seriously, are referees trained to only blow their whistles for players who scream, cry or flop excessively?

Or, God forbid, was there backlash behind the scenes after Anthony Davis shot 26 free throws against the Phoenix Suns, fouling out three of their players in the process? Over the next 9 games, the Pelicans as a team have tallied 15, 21, 18, 9, 18, 13, 8, 16, 12 free throws. That 14.4 FTA average is nearly half of Charlotte’s leading 28.2 attempts over the same span.

Are you kidding me?????

Good on you, Alvin. Thank you for taking one for the team with your pocketbook and ranting about the obvious inequality that is seemingly present whenever New Orleans now steps onto the floor.

The league needed a wake up call.

Let’s hope they finally listened.