Alvin Gentry calls them “baby steps,” but every little step Anthony Davis takes is important for the Pelicans.
The franchise forward’s rehab from a left knee procedure is in the “early stages,” Gentry said before Saturday’s game against the Phoenix Suns at the Smoothie King Center.
But a little more than two weeks removed from having a season-ending ultrasonic abridgement on a degenerative area of his left patellar tendon, Davis is walking without crutches.
He won’t play again this season, but Davis is playing a part.
“In the games, he’s talked to players about certain situations, especially some of the new guys – James Ennis, he’s talked to Jordan Hamilton some about exactly what we’re trying to do or what we’re trying to get done,” Gentry said. “I just think it’s important that they know that he’s around and he cares and that he’s still a part of it. Although he’s not playing, I think it’s really important that all the guys on this team understand that he’s still 100 percent in it and he is part of the team.”
Davis returned to New Orleans soon after the knee procedure, which he underwent in Los Angeles. Even before he was sidelined, the Pelicans were struggling through a lost season.
His healthy return, though, is a critical piece of the franchise’s long-term future.
“We got a whole summer for him to start getting himself right and back right,” Gentry said. “The one thing about him, he’s a very conscientious guy. He wants to be well, and he wants to be on the court, and he wants to be playing. So I have no doubt that his rehab will go great.”
The goal now is for the rest of the offseason to go great in building a healthy team around Davis.
“He wanted to be back here before he could even fly (from Los Angeles),” Gentry said. “That’s what’s great about it. He loves New Orleans, he loves being here, he loves this team. What we have to do is we have to get everybody healthy and get it to the point where we’re going to be a contender year in and year out.”
The Pelicans on Saturday signed Ennis for the final three games of the season.
In six games with New Orleans entering Saturday night, Ennis was averaging 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 28 minutes per game. He was shooting 44 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3-point range.
Ennis, who played three games for Miami and 10 for Memphis earlier this season, called the chance to stick with New Orleans “a blessing.” He’s scored four times as many points and played four times as many minutes for the Pelicans as he did for the Heat and Grizzlies combined.
“I came from nothing, so anything is good,” Ennis said. “So far, I think this opportunity’s really helping me, and I’m just showing people I belong in the NBA.”
Out of the pen
Gentry is scheduled to throw out the first pitch Sunday at Tulane’s baseball home game against East Carolina. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start at Turchin Stadium.
Gentry joked that he’s working on “my Luis Tiant,” referencing the former All-Star pitcher whose unorthodox delivery included a turn away from home plate toward second base. Gentry also joked he might throw “just the hard split-finger fastball right down the middle.”
Then he admitted, “I just want to get it there.”