Anthony Davis sees 2016-17 as opportunity for Pelicans to regain status as team on rise

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Given the seismic change that took place in the Western Conference this July, it was a virtual lock that someone would ask New Orleans franchise player Anthony Davis for his perspective on stars swapping teams for an optimal chance at a ring. Posed by a reporter to the 23-year-old as a new-school vs. old-school debate, the three-time All-Star forward put himself squarely in the latter camp.

“I love it here. I don’t plan on leaving. So I guess I fit into that old-school category, where I try to win it here, where I started my career,” Davis said during a Media Day press conference. “That’s always been a goal of mine. I never thought about leaving here. But (other) people have their own opinions and their own decisions, reasons for why they make decisions. And I have mine. I love it here. My goal is to bring a championship here.”

Davis characterized the 2016-17 season as an opportunity for the Pelicans to return to the trajectory they appeared to be on in 2014-15, when they reached the West playoffs and played eventual NBA champion Golden State tough for much of a first-round series. New Orleans dipped to 30-52 last season, partly due to sustaining more key injuries than any team.

“If I’m not here for that reason (of wanting to win an NBA title), then I shouldn’t be here,” Davis said. “That’s my goal coming into every year, trying to put a banner up. But we know it doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve got to start somewhere. We were getting to that point – but then injuries happened. We don’t have to start all the way over, but we have to get back on track. I think this year’s going to get us back on track, for us to keep going forward to what our ultimate goal is, to win a championship.”

One of three NBA teams to hold Media Day on Friday, the Pelicans will practice twice Saturday and open their six-game preseason slate just a week later, facing Dallas on Oct. 1. After undergoing a successful procedure on his right knee in March, Davis has been back on the court lately and scrimmaging with his teammates, but New Orleans is taking a methodical approach to getting him ready for Oct. 26, the official opener vs. Denver.

“We think he’s going to have a great season,” Pelicans GM Dell Demps said. “We’re going to be real smart with him in training camp and preseason. Our goal is to get him 100 percent ready for the start of the regular season, so we’re going to be monitoring his workload. But we do expect him to be full go on opening night. We’re thinking of it more as a marathon than a sprint.”

“He can do just about everything,” Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry said, when asked how close to 100 percent Davis is right now. “From a coaching standpoint, we have to be smart about it. I don’t anticipate him (playing) 30 minutes in preseason games.”

Davis: “I feel fine. I’m ready to go. Of course they’re going to limit me a little bit, because they don’t want to overdo it. But as far as practices or training camp, two-a-days, I’m all in.”

New Orleans figures to need Davis on the floor as much as possible when the games start to count in the standings, after the Pelicans went just 6-15 without him in 2015-16. Davis said Friday that one of his goals is “to withstand an 82-game season.” During the team’s playoff season of 2014-15, New Orleans was 39-29 when Davis played, a success rate that, if replicated, would virtually guarantee the second appearance of his career in the postseason.

“There is nothing like a playoff atmosphere,” Davis remembered of April ’15. “(Playing at) Golden State was nice. But when it was here, you get chills. I’m eager to get back to that position. The whole organization is, the city is. That’s what we’re preparing for right now. We’ve been preparing for it all summer.”

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