Anthony Davis: No pressure in 'home' All-Star Game (2/16/14)

by Jim Eichenhofer

Anthony Davis practices with fellow Western Conference All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge (center) and Tony Parker

For what’s likely to be the only time during the 2013-14 NBA season, Anthony Davis will prepare for a basketball game Sunday feeling no pressure to perform, no urgency to produce in a big way – something he’s done since Game 1 of the preseason for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Davis led New Orleans in the first half of the regular season with averages of 20.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks, but he doesn’t believe his numbers in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game will ultimately matter much. Asked by at least a dozen media members in the lead-up to today if it’s important that he has a big individual game at the Smoothie King Center, Davis responded that he’s more focused on enjoying the experience.

“I’m just here to have fun,” Davis said of his All-Star Game debut. “I can’t wait to go out there and play with the guys on Sunday. I’m going to just play my normal game. It doesn’t really matter if I miss every shot I take. I just want to go out there and have fun.”

There have been multiple instances in All-Star history of a player earning the Most Valuable Player award in his home city, including in 2011, when Kobe Bryant captured the honor in Los Angeles. In most of those cases, however, the MVP was an established NBA veteran, not a first-time selection like Davis.

“No, I’m not worried about getting MVP, or whatever,” Davis said. “The thing I’m probably most looking forward to is being out there with these unbelievable guys who can score at will and also defend, rebound. The top guys in the league. I’m just happy to be out there with them.”

Unlike Davis’ experience at the 2012 Olympics, where he was a teammate of some of the sport’s greatest and most accomplished players, this time there is little consequence to winning or losing.

“Guys are more laidback here, instead of being so serious all the time,” he said, alluding to the fact that USA Basketball knew it was expected to win a gold medal in London. Essentially the 12th man on that USA team, Davis feasted on dunks and alley oops, benefiting from the attention his veteran teammates drew consistently from opposing defenses. A similar scenario could unfold Sunday, with the athletic high-flyer on the finishing end of some ambitious passes by Western Conference players.

“I know those guys are going to be looking for me,” Davis said, his eyes lighting up. “They have a lot of confidence in me, a lot of trust in my abilities. If they give me the opportunity to do something, of course I’m going to try to please the crowd.”

Davis won’t carry any specific individual goals into his first All-Star Game, but he hopes to be at least somewhat of a factor on the defensive end, even though that’s frowned upon by players who want to enjoy a bit less resistance than they do with their NBA teams. Davis expects Eastern Conference players to understand that it’s just part of his game.

“It’s not really a defensive-oriented game; you just go out there and have fun,” he said. “But I’ve played against all of these guys already, so they know I love to block shots. It’s going to be tough, but maybe I can get a couple blocks on the perimeter when guys shoot jumpers.”

Davis also obviously would like to win in front of his home crowd, which will include some family members.

“Sharing it with my family and my friends is very significant,” Davis said. “Hopefully there are a lot more opportunities to do this. To be around all of these superstars in my second year in the league is simply amazing. But I don’t think there’s really a lot of pressure at all to perform well. It’s all about fun.”