Monty Williams and Anthony Davis converse during a USA Basketball game in Spain

Anthony Davis, Monty Williams view FIBA World Cup experience as ‘head start’ to Pelicans' 2014-15 season

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

While the vast majority of NBA players have spent recent weeks working out and participating in informal pickup games, Anthony Davis was testing his expanding game against elite global competition. While other NBA head coaches vacationed or made plans behind the scenes for the upcoming 2014-15 season, Monty Williams was learning from some of basketball’s most accomplished and experienced sideline leaders.

Davis and Williams returned home to the United States this week after their FIBA World Cup gold medal victory over Serbia in Spain. Both are convinced that the experience will benefit them on and off the court this season, as they try to lead the New Orleans Pelicans into the playoffs. Training camp opens Sept. 30.

“I think it keeps you in the groove,” Davis said of practicing and playing with Team USA for a chunk of the summer. “Some guys take a month (off), maybe a month and a half, then go to training camp and try to get in a groove. I’m going to training camp rolling. That’s how I look at it.”

The biggest benefit for Williams may have come from being around the wisdom and guidance of USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski and national team director Jerry Colangelo, as well as longtime Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, a fellow USA assistant.

“I learned how to deal with elite players,” Williams said. “I’ve got this reputation now – I’ve heard it all summer – of how tough I am on guys. The one thing I learned from Coach K, Mr. Colangelo and Coach Boeheim, they didn’t push it down my throat, but they got it across to me to trust my guys more. And I think that’s the thing I thought I did a little bit last year, letting Tyreke (Evans) play more and (play) his game, but that was the thing that I pulled away from this situation. The whole experience was giving guys a little more freedom to play their game, not try to hamstring guys. I thought I did it a little bit, but I think it’s something I’m still working on. I think I can be a lot better at that now.”

Davis believes the experience of having his head coach there, as did Chicago point guard Derrick Rose with Tom Thibodeau, may give the Pelicans’ leaders a jump start on some of their NBA competition. For the 21-year-old Davis, a second gold medal in international play and the chance to team up with elite players was invaluable.

“I got better, not just as a player, but as a person,” Davis said. “Hanging around those (players) and the coaches, you’re going to get better, regardless if you’re playing or not. Having Coach (Williams) there, knowing what I need to work on for the season, was even better, because we got kind of a head start, like Thibs and Derrick did as well.”

Williams: “All of the guys who’ve played in these tournaments, they always go into the season rolling, because they’re in shape, they’re in a groove, and they have a bit of a head start on the rest of the league.”

Prior to and following Sunday’s 129-92 victory over Serbia, Davis and Williams discussed how they hoped to build on their experience when they returned to New Orleans. Williams said the opportunity to celebrate a gold medal with one of his own players was unforgettable.

“That was really cool,” Williams said. “To be able to win a gold medal with him was special. For us to be out on the floor in the pregame, talking about this is where we want to be someday as a (Pelicans) team. And in the postgame, hugging each other and celebrating it and doing all of that stuff was really cool. It was great to represent my country, my family, this organization and the city of New Orleans in a way I could never do outside of the NBA.”

“It was a fun experience,” Davis said. “We had a great time in Spain. We went there to accomplish one goal, and that’s to win a gold medal. That’s what we did. I had a fun time. Now it’s time to get back to work and try to do the same thing here.”

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