Pelicans fans rained down boos on their former franchise player. He answered by making it rain buckets in his former building.
Anthony Davis scored 41 points in his first game back at New Orleans since an awkwardly public trade demand was ultimately granted last summer. Now teamed up with LeBron James in Los Angeles, Davis faced the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2012 -- and reminded them of the talent they enjoyed if not necessarily succeeded with.
"Coming in and knowing what was going to happen with the boos," Davis admitted, "I just tried to play through it and calm my nerves and just play basketball."
He did that and then some.
Set up early and often by James, Davis did nearly all of his damage in the paint and at the free throw line while being relentlessly booed throughout the game. The crowd's disapproval nearly worked in the closing seconds, when Davis missed one of two free throws to give New Orleans the ball with 5.3 seconds left and the Lakers up by just two.
Instead, Davis stole the inbounds pass intended for Brandon Ingram -- the centerpiece to the Pelicans' trade return for Davis -- and finished off the 114-110 L.A. victory at the free throw line. The All-Star big man finished with 41 points -- an NBA record for most scored by an NBA player against his former team.
|Player||Old Team||New Team||Points Scored||Date|
|Anthony Davis||New Orleans Pelicans||Los Angeles Lakers||41||Nov. 27, 2019|
|Kevin Durant||Oklahoma City Thunder||Golden State Warriors||39||Nov. 3, 2016|
|Stephon Marbury||Minnesota Timberwolves||New Jersey Nets||39||Feb. 20, 2000|
|Danny Ainge||Boston Celtics||Sacramento Kings||39||Dec. 27, 1989|
As vindictive as both reception and performance felt, such emotion was non-existent between Davis and his former team. He and Jrue Holiday, who together led New Orleans past Portland in a first-round playoff upset two years ago, exchanged jerseys immediately after the game. Later, Davis was invited into the Pelicans locker room by coach Alvin Gentry to say hello to the rest of his old teammates.
As for the fans, Davis seemed understanding while also hopeful that the worst of the leftover acrimony is now behind him.
"I know they're passionate about their team," Davis acknowledged. "When everything went down last year, it was tough for both sides."
The Lakers' happiness is more immediate. Los Angeles now rides a nine-game winning streak into Thanksgiving, part of a 16-2 overall record that is best in the league. Davis entered the night averaging 26.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.6 steals, numbers that will all but assure him of his seventh consecutive All-Star berth. Combined with James, who surpassed 33,000 career points and currently leads the league in assists, the Lakers are considered a title contender.
New Orleans, meanwhile, still awaits the debut of No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, the most unquestioned top overall selection since (at least) Davis. Williamson underwent surgery to repair a torn right meniscus before the regular season began. The Pelicans have also dealt with sporadic injury woes to their other top players, which have factored into their 6-12 start. Yet if Ingram continues his career year and Williamson returns healthy, New Orleans' future appears bright with young talent and a wealth of draft picks acquired in the trade for Davis.
That, Davis says, should help the Pelicans move on from what was to what will be.
"Both sides moved on and both sides are happy," Davis summed up.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.