Anthony Davis’ choice of uniform Tuesday night, swapping potentially his last chance to wear a Pelicans uniform for one last Looney Tunes-inspired jab at the organization and its fans spoke to the finality of Tuesday night’s 112-103 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
A season, ended. A chapter in the All-Star’s career very possibly written and closed, minus his all-but-certain trade this summer.
But even as he and his representation at Klutch Sports managed to put the final nail in the coffin for the season of one – well, arguably two – franchises with Davis’ public trade demand on Jan. 28, his current team, teammates and its fans wouldn’t let him control the narrative of possibly his final night on the Pelicans bench.
He slunk out of the arena’s hallways and onto the hardwood – still wearing his well-crafted message on his chest – well after the pregame fanfare had begun. He staged a handshake for photographers with the Pelicans’ future cornerstone Jrue Holiday, and he walked onto the court one last time, behind the rest of the team, for its pregame huddle.
He wasn’t booed. He wasn’t loudly jeered. He wasn’t met in the hallway by hundreds of team workers like Dirk Nowitzki and didn’t have tribute t-shirts handed out to fans in his own honor like Dwyane Wade.
Though Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, like a well-rehersed politician – wouldn’t completely slam the door on Davis’ tenure in New Orleans after the game, he made it very clear he’s already looking forward. Not behind at the record his team produced, not at his team’s owner and future general manager for his job security and not at the myriad of issues that spelled the Pelicans’ downfall this season.
“I told them right after (the game), we’re going to be good next year, and we’re going to make the damn playoffs,” he said. “I said that, and I mean and believe that.”
And though the eight players that remained on his roster represent a small portion of the team he may have to work with next year – “I’m going to do everything I possibly can and work as hard as I possibly can until they tell me I’m not the coach”, he said – there were a few solid performances to take away from Tuesday’s loss.
Jahlil Okafor fell just a point shy of tying his career-high in points he set during his rookie season with Philadelphia, dropping 30 points on 15-of-24 shooting from the floor to go with seven rebounds. Newcomer Christian Wood, in just his eighth game with the team after his late signing, notched 26 points for a new career-high, along with 12 boards. Together, they represent two players who took advantage of their handful of opportunities late in this lost season and proved their worth – albeit against some opponents’ similar shallow lineups.
To end his final postgame press conference of the season, Gentry did have this to say, though, about Davis, the franchise’s all-time leader in numerous categories who had been its face for seven years. The Pelicans coach still sees a bright future in the All-Star forward, hasn’t lost respect for him moving forward and had no ill words to describe him with.
But he was also brutally honest in his assessment of where this season fell of the rails.
“I think he’s a great kid,” Gentry said. “I think he’s a very good kid. I think he’s a solid guy. I think he got some bad advice, if you want me to just tell the truth.”