Despite 27 games remaining on the schedule, it took all of three contests for the New Orleans Pelicans to reach an impasse with their once beloved superstar.
Upon returning to the rotation after a finger injury and that damn failed trade coup by Klutch Sports, viewers have witnessed Anthony Davis undergo a transformation that no one ever thought possible.
This past Friday against the Timberwolves, Davis resembled the All-NBA First Team talent by scoring 32 points on 11-15 shooting; four days later against the Magic, he plodded lifelessly to a stat line of one made field goal, one made free throw and nary a single assist in New Orleans most lopsided defeat of the season.
Davis’ explanation for the team’s latest lackluster effort: “We sucked. Nobody was interested in playing…that’s what it looked like.”
The word, we, should stick out like a sore thumb. Ignoring for a moment that Anthony ceased to remain a valid member of the collective effort awhile ago, where is the accountability in this half-hearted excuse?
Prior to his return to the lineup, the Pelicans were a competitive, fun bunch and quite possibly should have notched another upset or two. A very short-handed squad lost by six in Oklahoma City, beat a ridiculously hot James Harden and his Rockets by five, and then fell by six to the Nuggets, five to the Spurs and a mere two points to the Pacers. (Note: all of these teams are legitimate playoff contenders.)
The New Orleans coaching staff was on to something, even if illusory in importance among the rest of the league's happenings. Kenrich Williams quickly vaulted to fan favorite status, joining Jahlil Okafor and Frank Jackson as exciting pieces on the future version of the Pelicans, and everyone who stepped onto the floor embodied Jrue Holiday’s spirit, giving it their all from start to finish like the team’s new solitary leader.
But then Anthony Davis returned, just as he selfishly promised he would: “My intentions are to play. I’ve been working to get my finger back healthy. Obviously, it’s a tough situation, but my intention is to still play and when I’m able to play, I plan on suiting up.”
With Davis back in the fold, the Pelicans are promptly spiraling out of control. If there was little to play for before, now nothing makes sense.
The Pelicans have proven their 122-117 victory over Minnesota was indeed completely hollow by following up that performance with their two lowest scoring outputs of the season: 90 points against Memphis and 88 against Orlando.
Inside a tumultuous 72-hour window, Davis has been booed repeatedly by a New Orleans home crowd who once fervently sat in his corner — as they do with any of their own. In a city brimming with the most loyal NFL followers found anywhere in the county, this fanbase will ride or die with hometown players through thick or thin. Problem is, Davis no longer falls in that category. He broke New Orleans heart, making his wish to be elsewhere known, and then his representation tried every conceivable trick in the unwritten book to expedite his move to Los Angeles before the trade deadline.
The NBA’s stance on Davis finishing out the season was understandable, if foolhardy from the start. He has been one of the best players in the league for some time now and his presence attracts eyes far and wide. He has fans all over the globe. He is one of the league’s most marketable figures. The idea that one of the faces of the league has to play if there remain further opportunities to spread his exploits makes for a sound enough counter argument to the small potential for major injury which puts his trade value at supreme risk.
But what if New Orleans basketball games have failed to provide paying customers in arenas and from the comforts of home any enjoyment? Why subject a down-to-earth 25-year-old, who still has a bright future ahead and is widely considered one of the league’s good guys, to further public shaming? Does anyone really believe Davis’ image will not unnecessarily suffer by forcing fans to watch him continue to post apathetic stat lines from entirely meaningless contests?
It’s time to accept the simple fact that there’s nothing left to be gained by any party moving forward. If there’s no benefit being conferred to anyone, the charade must stop.
But there is a solution, and believe it or not, it might provide some decent closure.
- Accept the fact that Davis’ last game in this forsaken Pelicans regular season will come on Thursday against the OKC Thunder.
- Allow New Orleans to break the news, preferably by someone above Alvin Gentry, who has carried the weight of the entire franchise by standing in front of the media and dealing with impossible questions.
- Publicize it as Davis’ last hurrah on TNT, which will come inside the Smoothie King Center, against one of the premier teams featuring AD’s close friend Russell Westbrook and legitimate MVP candidate Paul George.
Local fans, now presented with an exit strategy and ensured a quick conclusion, will likely set aside any further animosity, and more importantly, be able to channel their energy into saying goodbye as best they can. If not, oh well because the current trajectory cannot continue. Also, this path would lead to Davis and the Pelicans remaining schedule not being a troublesome focal point during the upcoming All-Star festivities.
Can’t the final memory of Anthony Davis in New Orleans gear be at least somewhat pleasurable to some and not filled with contempt? Who knows, maybe in an entirely meaningless exhibition game, with some of that guilt lifted, AD puts on a show among the rest of the league’s stars and for once the All-Star game will not largely be a waste of two hours.
Currently sitting at rock bottom, the NBA, the Pelicans organization and Anthony Davis have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Lets make it happen.