CHICAGO — Anthony Davis made a point to shake nearly everyone of his teammates' hands during the pregame warmups on Wednesday.
It was the most action that the seventh-year forward would see all night — in what might be his last night with the Pelicans organization.
Before the game, New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said the team would sit out Davis — his ninth straight game on the bench — until after trade deadline expires at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Julius Randle returned to the court after a six-game absence, scoring a team-high 31 points to lead the Pelicans to a 125-120 win over the Chicago Bulls. Davis exited the United Center without talking to reporters.
After the Pelicans ended a three-game losing skid, Gentry was asked repeatedly about the future of Davis.
“He’s cleared to play,” Gentry said twice.
Jrue Holiday added 18 points and 11 assists and Cheick Diallo finished with 18 points and nine rebounds to pace the Pelicans (24-31). Lauri Markkanen scored 30 points to lead the Bulls (12-42).
Four-plus months ago, in the Pelicans’ preseason opener in Chicago, it was a much different story for Davis and the New Orleans organization. At that time, the main questions surrounding the Pelicans centered on how Randle and point guard Elfrid Payton would fit in with a team brimming with optimism following a strong showing in the playoffs.
Those days are long gone.
The Pelicans used odd lineups throughout Wednesday’s game, with eight players logging at least 21 minutes.
Holiday said he doesn’t plan on paying attention to trade rumors on Thursday’s off day.
“We love him him around,” Holiday said of Davis. “He’s like a brother to all of us, so having him here would be a joy. At that point, he will decide if he won’t play or not.”
Okafor, a Chicago native, finished with 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting. His dunk opened up the scoring for the Pelicans.
“It was a lot of fun,” Okafor said. “I love playing in the United Center. It was good to get the first dunk and get the butterflies out.”
Diallo scored on a reverse layup, and Tim Frazier banked a 4-footer to give the Pelicans a 91-82 lead after three quarters.
After a dunk by Diallo, Holiday drilled a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 105-94 with 6:56 remaining. Randle hit two free throws with 24.4 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
But the Davis saga — not the play on the court — was the main headline Wednesday.
Gentry downplayed any talk of Davis being a disruptive force or selfish for demanding a trade.
“(Anthony’s) a great kid,” Gentry said. “When he’s been out on the court, he’s given us everything he’s had. I don’t feel let down by him at all.”
Dressed in a maroon blazer, black jeans and sporting a thick gold chain, the 6-foot-10 Davis still cast a huge figure over the future of the Pelicans’ future from his spot near the end of the bench.
All eyes were on certainly on the Chicago product, from fans calling out his name or yelling out various trade options to him.
Today could be the final stage of a whirlwind period for Davis, a five-time all-star. Or it could be the beginning of a long wait till the offseason.
Will he or won’t he get traded?
That’s been the swirling question around the Pelicans and the rest of the league.
“We’ve been focused, all of us are professionals and have been prepared for anything,” Randle said. “If something happens, something happens. I’m not worried about it.”