Anthony Davis delivers eye-opening road trip
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
For what figured to be a relatively ho-hum, mid-week NBA preseason game on Wednesday, fans at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena were treated to a remarkably memorable evening. NBA legends Julius Erving, Rick Barry, George Gervin and Artis Gilmore sat courtside. An enthusiastic crowd of 9,274 gave the New Orleans Pelicans-Orlando Magic matchup an atmosphere that periodically resembled that of the regular season. The outcome of the game itself wasn’t decided until the final 10 seconds.
What the majority of those in attendance will be talking about over the next few days, though, isn’t any of those things. In New Orleans’ 99-95 victory, Pelicans second-year power forward Anthony Davis delivered arguably his finest performance in the NBA. The No. 1 overall selection from the 2012 draft registered 29 points (his official career high is 28), along with nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals. He packed all of those numbers into just 31 minutes of playing time.
The 2012 NCAA champion capped an eye-opening three-game road trip in which he was the best player on the floor every night. He averaged 25.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks (in just 28.0 minutes) in wins over Houston, Dallas and Orlando, serving notice that he’ll be a handful for opponents to contend with in 2013-14.
Although just one of the three games was broadcast on TV by either team (the Rockets aired Game 1 on Saturday), Davis provided countless highlights for spectators – and even his own teammates – with 12 dunks. Several of the dozen slams drew oohs from the crowd and inspired “standing ovations” from Pelicans players on the team bench.
“He’s an exciting guy to watch,” New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson said. “It’s fun to watch him develop. When he’s aggressive, no one can stop him. That’s what we just continue to embed in his mind. He’s one of those rare players who doesn’t quite understand yet how good he even is. He just continues to impress us. He’s incredibly mature and picks up on the game really easily. He’s had a great preseason so far.”
After averaging just 3.5 free-throw attempts per game as a rookie, Davis went 17-for-19 (89.5 percent) from the foul line on the road trip, including going 11-for-11 vs. Orlando. He terrorized the Magic in the third quarter, scoring 15 points over a stretch of just 5 minutes, 18 seconds.
“Whenever he’s in attack mode, he’s a monster to try to guard,” Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts said.
Defensively, Davis had two blocked shots of Orlando jump shots Wednesday, at one point swatting a Victor Oladipo wing three-pointer all the way back to the halfcourt line – a play that wowed the Jacksonville audience. The 20-year-old’s rare combination of 6-foot-10 height, wingspan, athleticism, quickness and timing allows him to cover a vast amount of ground when closing on shooters. During his college season at Kentucky, scouts raved about Davis’ knack for blocking perimeter attempts, but doing the same figured to be difficult in the NBA, where players are bigger, more talented and savvy about how to create separation from defenders. It’s yet another Davis trait that makes him a unique, promising player, something he demonstrated with regularity over the past week.