Anthony Davis nets 10 points, enjoys All-Star debut (2/16/14)

by Jim Eichenhofer

Anthony Davis throws down one of his dunks during Sunday's NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans

It was a game that didn’t count in the standings and he was in extremely familiar surroundings, but Anthony Davis found himself unusually nervous prior to Sunday’s 63rd All-Star Game. If there was one piece of pregame advice his veteran Western Conference teammates gave him, it was this: Don’t fire up a long-range perimeter shot on your first attempt to score.

Just 12 seconds after he checked into the game on his Smoothie King Center home floor, however, Davis realized he was wide open with the ball on the left wing. Against everything he’d been told, he launched a 20-footer. Two points.

The New Orleans Pelicans forward’s first All-Star shot was a fitting start to a Sunday evening in which he scored 10 points, missing only one attempt from the field. In just 10 minutes of action, the second-year pro also had two steals in the Western Conference’s 163-155 loss to the East.

“I didn’t think I was going to be that nervous,” said Davis, who noted that it was the most pregame jitters he’s had since the 2012 NCAA championship game. “(Other All-Stars) told me, ‘Don’t shoot a jumper on your first shot.’ I didn’t want to shoot it, but (I thought), ‘I’m too open and nobody is running out to me, so I’ve got to shoot it.’ Millions of people are watching. I’m just glad I hit my first shot.”

Backed by a supportive New Orleans crowd, the 20-year-old’s 20-foot jumper began a four-minute second-quarter stretch in which he quickly tallied eight points. His final three first-half buckets came on the finishing end of alley oops, including two assisted by Chris Paul and another by James Harden. Davis tacked on a fifth basket early in the fourth quarter, again off a nice feed by Paul.

“It was fun,” Davis said of his playing experience. “Guys just kept telling me to have fun. All-Star week is about having fun. It was great. The city was behind me, my family was behind me. I had a great time.”

Going into Sunday’s game, it was uncertain how many minutes Davis would play. Working against him was the fact that he’s the youngest 2014 All-Star and was one of just two second-year players in the game (Portland’s Damian Lillard was the other). Working in his favor was that he was the lone representative for the host city of New Orleans.

Asked specifically if he would’ve liked to play more than 10 minutes, Davis responded, “Of course. (But) I mean, I was cheering my team on. I wasn’t mad. I just wanted to win, actually. It was fun. It was a fun experience for me. First All-Star. Second year. I wasn’t going in expecting to play a lot of minutes. I just wanted to enjoy it all.”

Davis joked that the high-scoring game wouldn’t have gone over very well with his NBA coach, Pelicans fourth-year leader Monty Williams. Davis’ eight-point first half was part of a record-setting half for the West, which piled up 89 points, the most in All-Star Game history.

“(Early in the second quarter) it was like 52-50. Coach (Williams) would kill us if we let a team do that,” Davis said. “It was amazing. These guys can put the ball in the basket. It was fun to watch.”

Davis checked out of the game for the final time with 7:58 remaining in the fourth quarter and the West leading by a 136-135 margin. He watched from the sideline as the East held a 28-19 edge over the final eight minutes to overtake the West, which was technically the “home team.” For Davis, it truly was a home game, with him receiving raucous ovations throughout the night, starting with his name being announced during the traditional All-Star player introductions.

“It being here in New Orleans,” Davis said when asked what was most noteworthy about his first All-Star Game. “I didn’t have to fly anywhere. I just went 10 minutes up the street. A lot of fans were supporting me, everybody was behind me. I’m just glad it was here. For my first All-Star to be here in New Orleans, I will always remember that.”