This is a story about Anthony Davis gaining weight.
It will not begin with an anecdote about the New Orleans Pelicans star being pushed around in the post last season and realizing something had to change. It will not detail a grueling workout and diet regimen that allowed the 6-foot-10 Davis to pack on about 15 pounds of offseason muscle.
Instead, it will start with Davis all but shrugging his (extra wide) shoulders when he talks about a transformation that brought him into the preseason at 253 pounds.
“I’m starting to develop into my body now,” he said. “I think it’s just happening on its own.”
This is a good place to remind you that Davis is 22, that his body does things that sometimes seem to defy science, that he once grew 8 inches in a year and a half and that he has retained his point-guard fluidity at power forward proportions.
And so while this is a story about Anthony Davis gaining 15 pounds, it is not a story about how much that will change his game. It is about the remarkable ways in which it will not.
“I guess, for me, I don’t really know what’s changed,” point guard Jrue Holiday said, and he seemed quite sincere.
Holiday knew Davis put on muscle in the offseason, and he knew that work went into that growth. Maybe he can even look at Davis and see a physical difference. But to Holiday, the notable thing is not that Davis doesn’t look the way he did before.
It’s that he runs and jumps exactly the way he did before.
And also, he is better at basketball.
“Maybe he can withstand 82 games better” with the extra weight, Holiday said.
“Maybe he can bang with the bigger guys now. We haven’t witnessed that (in preseason). But obviously him getting bigger didn’t make him shoot 3s. He could always shoot 3s. He could always handle the ball. He’s naturally gifted, and he’s skilled.”
That much was always clear. And that’s why the Pelicans never panicked about packing pounds onto Davis, even as he entered the NBA in 2012 listed at 222 pounds.
“When we first drafted him, we wanted to put him on a long-term plan and not try to rush putting weight on him and strength,” general manager Dell Demps said. “We wanted to make it was a gradual progression. We thought it would be better for him and not as much risk of injury (than) if we tried to put too much weight on him too soon.”
Every offseason, Demps said, the organization consults the strength and conditioning staff to “re-evaluate” Davis’ body. They talk to Davis about what he wants and where he feels most comfortable.
This offseason, Davis said, the result of those discussions was a program designed to make him stronger, not bigger. He did gain weight as a result of a new nutrition plan and challenging weight-room sessions with strength and conditioning coach Jason Sumerlin, but adding pounds was never the goal.
“I wanted to get stronger but keep my speed and quickness,” Davis said.
Davis worked more on his ball-handling and 3-point shooting, he said — the latter on new coach Alvin Gentry’s orders — than on gaining weight. But he feels stronger than ever, and the Pelicans need him to be.
An MVP candidate last season, Davis averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and a league-high 2.9 blocks. He had a usage rate of 27.6, meaning he “used” that percentage of the Pelicans’ possessions, either with field-goal or free-throw attempts, assists or turnovers. Davis ranked 23rd in the NBA in usage.
This preseason, with his role expanded in Gentry’s offense and some key teammates lost to injury, Davis’ usage rate was 37 percent, tied for third in the league.
Maybe a bigger and stronger Davis is better equipped to handle the workload ahead of him as the Pelicans continue to deal with injuries. He’s not sure.
Davis figured he’ll be stronger attacking the rim, harder for defenders to knock off his path to the basket. Mostly, he figured, he’ll be better at holding his position against bigger offensive players when he defends the post.
You might not be able to tell the difference.
“I feel explosive. I feel quick,” Davis said. “I still feel the same.”