LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis’ status is secure.
All it takes is a glance around the Staples Center signage, a conversation with his All-Star teammates or a chat with media members.
He’s organically grown on the path to superstardom over his past five trips to this showcase, evolving from an All-Star reserve, to All-Star starter, to All-Star MVP, to a fixture in the league’s glitziest exhibition.
And those who’ve watched his career unfold from up close credit his continual climb to a constant pursuit of improvement and a seemingly limitless ceiling.
“When I was there, he couldn’t shoot 3s,” Rockets’ guard Eric Gordon said, who played with Davis his first four seasons. “He could shoot a little bit, but it wasn’t something he relied on at all.”
Smash cut to NBA TV, where Davis is fielding questions about potentially being in next year’s 3-point contest, after making a career-best 40 3-pointers already this season (on 109 attempts).
“He just keeps getting better,” 2016-17 teammate Langston Galloway said. “There are things you can see him do now and realize he didn’t even do them last year.”
The most noticeable change is Davis’ willingness to put the ball on the floor, grabbing defensive rebounds and bounding up the floor with the pace of a point guard, even when it doesn’t lead to a traditional fast break possession.
“I mean, I saw DeMarcus (Cousins) do it,” Davis said Saturday. “So, I knew I can.”
Those two qualities are the byproduct of productive summers. Davis recognized possessing a 6-foot-11 frame, leaping ability, soft shooting touch and wily vision make a rare, valuable combination.
But what more is Davis capable of?
And, even after the strides he’s made, how much more is needed pull his team into becoming a true threat in the Western Conference? And, not just eke into the playoffs, but can they win a series or two?
“Winning. That's it. That's how you're judged,” Davis told ESPN earlier this year. “You can score, you can dominate. You can do whatever. But they calculate everything off winning. You know that. I know that. Everybody in the league knows that. I hear it all the time: ‘Anthony is a good player, but he hasn't won anything. He's not a winner. He hasn't been to the playoffs in two years.’ ”
Those are the most telling words Davis has publicly spoken. And it’s the statement the entire Pelicans organization should keep in mind as Davis’ contract winds toward its 2020 conclusion.
Since 2015 he’s been out of the MVP conversation. And despite his awe-inspiring greatness, it was clear during Saturday’s All-Star media day he’s still not seen as a particularly compelling personality.
The crowds gathered around LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry looked like Orleans Avenue on Endymion on Saturday, as cameras practically climbed over each other to get a view of their face. Meanwhile, the gathering around Davis’ podium was akin to a day parade on the first weekend.
Davis isn’t necessarily overlooked, but in many ways his story to the NBA universe is static.
He’s an exceptionally talented player, capable of spectacular performances and jaw-droppings numbers. But, when the lights shine their brightest and the world locks onto NBA basketball, his season is typically over.
Six seasons, one postseason appearance, four playoff games. Those numbers are reining in superstardom.
Don’t forget, Davis popped flashbulbs and gathered a social media storm in the brief playff appearance, despite being swept by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. His dazzling 31.5 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game in those losses have been remembered for years.
“We couldn’t stop him and I thought he was totally capable of winning some games and maybe even that series if they got a few breaks,” said Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry, who was then a Warriors’ assistant. “Look, he can do just about anything you ask him to do and can do it against just about anybody.”
And his game is only getting better.
The concern is whether the peak of his stardom keeps arriving in this vapid mid-February showcase rather than on the playoff stage, where it truly counts.