Maybe Anthony Davis will pause for a moment on ESPN or TNT. Maybe by chance he’ll catch a glance at these NBA playoffs.
But it’s not appointment television for the Pelicans’ franchise forward. In fact, he makes a point to stay away.
“It’s tough to watch as a player, to sit here and watch these games, especially in the Western Conference,” Davis said in a telephone interview with The Advocate last week. “You’re watching those games knowing we could be there. I try to avoid it.”
Davis was calling from Los Angeles, where he is undergoing a rehab regimen for the ultrasonic debridement he had performed on his left knee March 24. The procedure was to repair a degenerative area of his patellar tendon, and the recovery time was set at three to four months.
The 6-foot-10 Davis doesn’t want to talk about the specifics of his rehab, but he will say it’s “going well” and the hope is to be 100 percent healthy by the start of training camp in the fall.
Until then, his trainers in Los Angeles — under the direction of physical therapist John Meyer — stay in regular communication with the Pelicans’ medical staff, Davis said, “constantly updating each other and trying to figure out the next steps to take in the rehab process.”
Davis’ part in all this, he said, is “to show up every day and bring a work ethic.”
“Trying to stay in the weight room so (I) don’t get fat,” Davis said.
A year ago, Davis was coming off a season in which he’d only fattened his résumé.
He averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game in 2014-15 and led the Pelicans to the playoffs for the first time in his career. His numbers were similar this season — 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2 blocks per game — but the perception of Davis is different.
The Pelicans dropped from 45 wins to 30 in an injury-ravaged season under first-year coach Alvin Gentry. That, along with the 21 games Davis missed to injury — including the last 14 of the season, when the team shut him down to undergo the knee procedure — appears to have altered some opinions on Davis.
Bleacher Report ran a story in January questioning Davis’ leadership. In the fall, 86.2 percent of NBA general managers said they’d build around Davis were they starting a franchise. Last week, eight writers from NBA.com gave their choices for All-NBA selections, and Davis made one appearance, on the third team.
But if Davis has his doubters, he’s tuning them out.
He rejected the notion that criticism for his first real professional speed bump — projected as a superstar out of Kentucky in 2012, his NBA career has been on an almost-exclusively upward trajectory — serves as any motivation.
“I don’t care what anybody else thinks,” Davis said. “The only people that I care about are the guys in that locker room and our coaching staff. Everybody else has an opinion and they’re entitled to it, but once the guys in our locker room and our coaching staff start saying stuff, that’s when you have to look at it. The rest of it is white noise.”
And if the heat is falling on Davis for the Pelicans’ struggles, he’ll accept it.
“All of it comes with being one of the players that I am, whether it’s a superstar, star player, whatever you want to call it,” Davis said. “It comes with that. You ask to be one of the top (players) in the NBA, of course, some of that stuff’s going to come with it.”
And though criticism doesn’t faze Davis, losing does. The Pelicans, who missed 351 player games to injury, were well out of playoff contention by the time they shut him down his season, but Davis said a ragtag team of reserves and replacements “kind of set this culture that we want for next year” with its late-season energy and effort.
Davis wants to be a part of a winning culture in 2016-17.
Coach Alvin Gentry wants Davis to make strides at both ends of the court in the offseason. He told Davis to focus on developing “a stronger base” for posting up. He’d like to see Davis, a 32.4 percent 3-point shooter last season, develop into a player who shoots “in the high 30s” from outside the arc.
“I don’t want him to have to guard the Dwight Howards of the world for long stretches because I just think the pounding takes its toll on a guy that size who’s not accustomed to the DeMarcus Cousins and the big, strong guys like that,” Gentry said, though he said the Pelicans will continue playing Davis both at power forward and center.
For now, though, Davis can’t spend much time on basketball improvements.
As he avoids playoff games on TV, he’s also absent from basketball-specific workouts, focusing first on getting his body right. That will make improving his game a challenge this spring and summer.
“The basketball stuff I’m not really too worried about; I’ve been playing the game all my life,” Davis said. “You’re not able to play the game of basketball until you get 100 percent healthy. I think the biggest focus for me is getting healthy, and then the time I do have left over in the summertime when I’m able to step back on the floor, whenever that is, take it from there.”