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New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis stands near the bench before an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks) ORG XMIT: CXA109

Oct. 31, 2012 — Jan. 18, 2019.

That SHOULD be the timeline of Anthony Davis' playing days with the New Orleans Pelicans. 

His final highlight, in a career filled with them, should have come with 5:10 left in a game three weeks ago when Darius Miller shot a jumper and missed. AD soared in for the rebound and slammed it in.

That rebound and those two points should have been and probably would have been the final stats of his career as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans if things had been left up to the Pels.

But perhaps the NBA didn't leave it up to the Pels.

That appears to be the case based on a statement Pelicans general manager Dell Demps released Thursday evening.

“Anthony Davis will play the remainder of the 2018-19 season for the New Orleans Pelicans," Demps' statement read. "A number of factors contributed to this decision. Ultimately, Anthony made it clear to us that he wants to play and he gives our team the best opportunity to win games. Moreover, the Pelicans want to preserve the integrity of the game and align our organization with NBA policies. We believe Anthony playing upholds the values that are in the best interest of the NBA and its fans. We look forward to seeing Anthony in a Pelicans uniform again soon.”

That "integrity of the game" part sounds more like NBA lingo for "he has to play."

Surely, the Pelicans would have preferred sitting him out the rest of the way, where his final numbers in the Big Easy would have read as follows: 10,810 points. 4,779 rebounds. 1,091 blocks.

His final game should have been that one played two weeks ago some 2,500 miles away in Portland, Oregon, which is about how close AD should come to touching the Smoothie King Center floor again this season. 

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Outside of being forced by the NBA for the sake of fans who have purchased tickets to see him play, there's really no reason to put him back on the same court with the guys he basically told 11 days ago weren't good enough.

Next week's NBA All-Star game in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Davis will get to be teammates with LeBron James, would ideally be the only time Pels' fans would have to hold their breath the rest of this season.  

Doctors say Davis, who hasn't played since injuring his left index finger in that game against the Trail Blazers a few weeks ago, is good to go.

But the Pelicans need to make sure Davis is good to go when it's time for him to actually go a few months from now.

They have everything to lose and nothing to gain by playing him again. 

Once the clock struck 2 p.m. Thursday and the NBA trade deadline hit, Davis became a Pelican for the remainder of the season.

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The deal that Davis (or his agent) tried to force the Pelicans to make with the Lakers never came to fruition.

The Pelicans (24-31) enter Friday night's home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves six games behind the No. 8 team in the Western Conference. How Pelicans fans react to Davis will be far more interesting than what's on the scoreboard. 

Yes, Alvin Gentry could play Davis extensive minutes the rest of the way and hope the team goes on a late season run like it did a season ago and make a playoff push.

That's the best-case scenario.

But is it worth it?

Heck no.

What the Pelicans get in return for Davis when they make the trade this summer is far more important than any first-round (or even second-round) playoff exit.

The last thing the team needs is for Davis to suffer some type of injury, causing his value to come down just as fast as his pictures came down off the team picture on the video boards at the Smoothie King Center.

The Pelicans, better than most organizations, should know just how big of a risk it would be to play him. This is team that just 376 days ago watched as Demarcus Cousins' Achilles tendon popped in a game against the Rockets.

Now imagine having your heart drop every time Davis crumbled to the floor or limped into the locker room during a game for the next two and a half months.

There's too much at stake for the Pelicans to take that chance in the season's last 27 games. If the league is making them play him, the Pels should play him as little as possible. 

They spent the past few days turning down the Lakers' offers, taking a chance on getting something better in a few months.

That was a risk worth taking.

Playing AD any more than you have to this season isn't.

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.