Anthony Davis fulfilling even greatest expectations
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Normally reserved with his words while discussing expectations for his players, New Orleans Pelicans Coach Monty Williams threw caution to the wind Feb. 20, on his weekly radio show. While projecting the kind of performances Williams believed forward Anthony Davis was capable of, the head coach made a sky-high proclamation that may have seemed absurdly unrealistic at the time.
“I think AD’s going to have games of 35 points, 25 rebounds and 10 blocks,” Williams told host Sean Kelley. “And everybody’s going to be wowed by it, but I’m just going to look at (Davis calmly afterward) and be like, ‘OK, see you next game.’ ”
It was unclear how far in the future Williams expected to see those video game-like numbers from Davis, but less than a month later, it’s already happening. Over the past six games, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft has compiled one of the best individual stretches in league history, particularly for a player who just turned 21 on March 11. While spearheading the Pelicans to a 4-2 record over that span, Davis is averaging 32.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks, drawing statistical comparisons to the likes of a young Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando.
Davis’ 40-point, 21-rebound, three-block game against Boston on Sunday was the closest he has come to fulfilling his coach’s vision of a historic 35-25-10. He’s also had a 36-point game vs. Portland and a 32-17-6 outing against Denver in the past 10 days.
“To have a guy go for those kind of numbers and to do it within the scheme of the team is impressive,” Williams said. “When you think of his game (against Boston), he covered just about every base. It’s just nice to watch.”
“It’s fun to have a front-row seat and watch it,” agreed Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts. “To get a performance like that from AD, that’s special. That’s all you can say. Game in and game out now, he’s getting it. It’s amazing that he just turned 21 and he seems to have the game down. He knows how to pick and choose his spots to be aggressive, and he can read the game now. That doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s something he started to figure out.”
Along with hearing comparisons to the names of fellow big men O’Neal and Dwight Howard this week, Davis’ recent play has made many around the league wonder how long it will be before the Chicago native joins the elite ranks of the NBA, side by side with players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
“I would definitely love that,” Davis said when asked about eventually being compared to those superstars. “I have a lot of work to do, a lot more to improve on. Hopefully in the years to come, I will be in that conversation.”
In the six-game stretch, Davis has logged at least 39 minutes every night, topped by a 47-minute, 42-second workload in the overtime win vs. Boston. Combined with his staggering production in the time he’s been on the floor, it’s been an eye-opening experience, even for the 6-foot-10 player himself.
“It’s been amazing,” Davis said. “Now I see what the LeBrons, Kevin Durants, Kobes, Carmelos and all of those guys do, night in and night out. It’s tough to put up numbers like that. I’m just trying to have fun with it.”
After authoring one of the greatest defensive seasons in NCAA history during his championship 2011-12 year at Kentucky, Davis has more than lived up to his billing at that end of the floor in the pros. He’s currently leading the NBA in blocks per game, at 2.91. What’s been more surprising is that he’s rapidly become a potent and versatile force on offense. While also compiling a lengthy highlight reel in this six-game span, Davis has shown he’s much more than an athletic finisher of alley oops and putback slams. He’s been extremely efficient, shooting 57.9 percent from the field (70-for-121) and 87.1 percent from the foul line (54-for-62). If those numbers weren’t impressive enough, he’ll go into Wednesday’s home game vs. Toronto having made 33 consecutive free throws.
“Coach K remarked last year that (Davis) is the only guy in the league who can change a game and not score a point,” Williams said of USA Basketball and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He (also) has shown this year that offensively he can be just as efficient and as good as (the NBA’s highest scorers). I don’t think anybody saw him being this type of offensive player. The more I was around him and watched him, he has good feet. When I saw AD’s footwork and his touch, you started to think about the things he could do as an offensive player.”
Understandably, Davis’ recent explosion has his teammates intrigued to see what kind of player Davis might become in the near future and beyond. Davis has already surpassed what many NBA observers believed was realistic this early in his career.
“(In his) second year, nobody expected him to come out like this,” Pelicans forward Tyreke Evans said. “He’s having an amazing year. He just turned 21. It will only get better for him.”
Asked by a local TV reporter if it’s scary to think about how good Davis will be if he continues to improve at such as an accelerated pace, Roberts quickly grinned. Many of Roberts’ 19 assists over the past six games have come from simply looking for Davis.
“It’s scary for the other teams,” Roberts clarified. “It’s good for me.”