Anthony Davis is ready to run.
Nearly a month after signing a long-term extension with the New Orleans Pelicans that will keep the superstar forward with the franchise until at least 2020, Davis said he’s gearing up for a new style of basketball under coach Alvin Gentry.
And while the pace and offensive influence is the most dazzling piece of Gentry’s high-gear system, Davis said he’s also put added emphasis on the other end of the floor. In his fourth NBA offseason, Davis is working on his agility as well as his conditioning, putting in a special focus on defense, thanks to his budding relationship with assistant coach Darren Erman.
“I think coach Erman is one of the best in the league, if not the best, at defense,” Davis said. “Every day when I’m on the floor, I work 15 to 20 minutes on defense. So I’m working on everything.”
Davis said the roster fits the breakneck speed Gentry wants the Pelicans to play at, mentioning the team’s versatility at guard, along with the variety of shooters available on the wings. Davis compared his role to Draymond Green’s in Golden State, claiming he’ll be responsible for immediately pushing the ball up the floor after defensive rebounds.
“The team that we have, I think our pace is going to be unbelievable,” Davis said. “Now that he wants us get the ball off a rebound and just go and have our guards running the floor, they’re just going to be attacking.
“There’s a lot we can do with our team. I think we have a little bit of everything, because we have guys who can score and guys who shoot and handle the ball.”
While the anticipation of playing for Gentry is exciting, Davis also had many kind words for his former coach, Monty Williams.
The Pelicans fired Williams on May 12, despite his improving the Pelicans’ winning percentage each of the past four seasons. While Davis said he respects Williams, he also understands the business of the NBA and that decisions like this happen.
“Coach Monty was my first coach in the NBA, so we have that connection,” Davis said. “It was tough. We went through a lot together from my rookie year to my second year to going to the World Cup and winning a gold medal, so we’ve been through a lot. He helped me through a lot and taught me a lot.
“So when it happened, he called me and said, ‘Don’t worry about me, I’m going to be fine. You need to go out and be great.’ So that right there shows what kind of guy he is. He never talked bad or down about the organization.”
On June 2, Williams signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder as the top assistant on coach Billy Donovan’s staff.
Davis Perk-ed up
Last week, when the Pelicans signed 12-year center Kendrick Perkins to a one-year contract, it left some fans scratching their heads.
Perkins, 6-foot-10, 270 pounds, barely played for the Cleveland Cavaliers late last season, and his numbers have declined for each of the past four seasons. But Davis was quick to compliment the addition to the Pelicans’ roster.
During his teleconference with reporters Monday morning, Davis made some unprompted remarks about Perkins and how meaningful his addition is to New Orleans.
“I think adding Kendrick Perkins is going to help us a lot, being that veteran leader,” Davis said. “He’s seen the best games played with the best players and played on some of the best teams, and played with Hall of Famers. He’s seen so much, and he will be able to help, even me, out; and for a lot of guys on the team, it’s going to be vital. It was a great pick up for us.”
The Pelicans officially announced Perkins’ signing Tuesday.
The last piece of the Pelicans’ roster not in place is at backup point guard, where the team has made a $3 million qualifying offer to restricted free agent Norris Cole.
General Manager Dell Demps has the option of matching any potential deal Cole can get on the open market, or Cole can choose to sign the one-year qualifying offer before an Oct. 1 deadline.
The Pelicans finished the regular season 18-11 after trading for Cole at the deadline, and Davis didn’t hide the fact he wanted the fifth-year guard back on the team when asked if they’ve kept in touch this offseason.
“We definitely hope he comes back, because he was a huge spark for us,” Davis said. “He did a wonderful job for us in the playoffs. When we brought him in with Dante (Cunningham) and Quincy (Pondexter), we definitely went to another level defensively. He brought a lot to the table for us.”