If images weren’t enough, Anthony Davis used his words to further impress the point he’s been trying to make all offseason.
“I love living here in New Orleans, and I love playing for the city,” were the first words Davis uttered in a 30-minute teleconference Monday morning, his first press gathering since the New Orleans Pelicans’ season ended in May. “I love the city, and I just felt comfortable here. I like the team and the direction that we are headed in. I like the guys that are playing by my side.
“So I feel very comfortable here, and I have a lot of trust in the organization and what they are doing. I know they’re trying to do their best to put us in a situation to win. So I thought that was the biggest thing for me.”
It’s why Davis agreed to a five-year, $145 million extension (with a player option in 2020-21), the first minute he could. A week later, he signed the necessary paperwork in a similarly punctual manner.
Davis repeatedly said how committed he is to the franchise and reiterated his belief in General Manager Dell Demps. He even expressed his confidence in new coach Alvin Gentry, despite having not yet played or even practiced for him.
But Gentry has already let Davis know exactly how much he means to him.
First, Gentry publicly called out for Davis on national television, minutes after winning the NBA championship as an assistant with Golden State, to tell him they’d be together in that jubilation next year, a move that invigorated Davis.
Days later, Gentry called Davis to lay out his vision for how Davis would work in the new system, built on getting him the ball in space and frenetically pushing the tempo. Those two moments, combined with Gentry’s infectious attitude, left a lasting impression on Davis.
“You’re thinking about the Pelicans winning next year when you could be enjoying your time with Golden State, so that made me very excited,” Davis said. “Then, in our initial conversation, he definitely did that because he’s always so hyped up and so happy to coach basketball. He always brings that great energy to the phone conversations, to the court, to dinner, wherever.
“He always brings that positive vibe and that good energy, and it kind of gets you excited. I’m definitely excited to play for him, and everybody on the team is excited to play for him.”
And that team, which surrounded Davis and helped lift him to his first playoff berth last season, is overwhelmingly intact. New Orleans re-signed four of its unrestricted free agents — Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Dante Cunningham and Luke Babbitt — and didn’t trade away any other pieces during the offseason.
It’s gives the franchise a level of continuity unseen since 2009 and added a layer of comfort to Davis’ decision to stick with the team.
“In order for us to be that contender we want to be, we have to have a lot of chemistry, which we have had the past three years with the same team,” Davis said. “So it’s really good everybody is going to come back. We are going to be able to have that chemistry going right into the start of the season.”
Whether it’s Gentry, teammates, the front office, ownership or the city itself, Davis found ample areas of comfort to continue his career with the Pelicans, choosing to remain under contract with the franchise until at least 2020.
Now, he said, the next step is to win. And win bigger than this team ever has before.
“We’ve gotten a little bit better every year and went to the playoffs last year. And the city was just so amped up, and there was just so much excitement around the city last year,” Davis said. “The crazy thing is we can be better. We know guys were hurt, and we can be way better than we were last year and that’s the scary thing about our team. So everybody is talking about it, and everybody is talking about the Pelicans.
“We went from not making the playoffs and not really being close to the playoffs my first two years to last year we were just so excited. I love doing it with this team. That was the biggest factor for me.”