It wasn't the first time Alvin Gentry had said these past 10 weeks were the strangest of his 31-year coaching career.
But on Tuesday night, after the New Orleans Pelicans' season came to a merciful end with a 112-103 loss to the Warriors, Gentry repeated his statement one more time.
The New Orleans coach said this post-Jan. 28 stretch since Anthony Davis' trade request was even stranger than his time as a Clippers assistant during the 2014 postseason, when team owner Donald Sterling was heard on tape making racist comments to his personal assistant, was given a lifetime ban from the NBA and was found mentally incapacitated. A month later, Sterling's estranged wife sold the team for $2 billion.
“Nothing, not this toxic," Gentry said Tuesday. "Nothing that affected two teams and two guys. One (former Pelicans GM Dell Demps) lost his job, and one (former Lakers president magic Johnson) resigned from his job. I haven’t had something that equaled that kind of fallout.”
Even before Johnson resigned from his post Tuesday night — seemingly on a whim, minutes before the Lakers' final game of the season — Davis stoked the fires one more time but refused to take the brunt of the blame.
The seventh-year superstar waltzed into the Smoothie King Center, likely for the last time as a Pelican, wearing a T-shirt with “That’s all folks!” emblazoned on the front, inspired by his favorite cartoon, Looney Toons.
On Wednesday, during the players' final meeting with media, Davis claimed the wardrobe selection wasn’t his doing.
“I didn’t choose (the shirt), actually,” Davis said Wednesday. “It was hanging for me already when I was putting my clothes on.”
Who hung it and chose it for him to wear?
“I’m not sure.”
Davis said he has no regrets on how the past 10 weeks played out and how he’s viewed publicly, whether by the organization that selected him No. 1 overall seven years ago; with the fans who wore his jersey to games all season; or with his current teammates, who had been counting on him to help build on the Pelicans' playoff run from a year ago.
“I think in everything you do, there’s always something to learn,” he said. “But I haven’t really sat back and thought about that yet because the season just ended.
“I had an amazing time here. I loved playing here, and it will always have a special place in my heart. And you never know what could happen at the end of your career.”
As has been the case, at least publicly, since Davis made waves, his teammates continued to stand by him Wednesday. That was perhaps reflected in the way the Pelicans were competitive in so many games during the second half of the season — even as the roster’s lack of depth showed up in crunch time, leading to a 33-49 overall record.
“I think he handled it the best that he could and what he thought was the best for himself,” said Darius Miller, who was Davis’ teammate at Kentucky and who was also drafted by New Orleans in 2012. “I don’t think he needed to offer an apology. I felt like he did what’s best for him in this point of his career.”
Julius Randle, another former Kentucky player, strongly agreed.
“I think it’s unfair,” he said of Davis’ negative perception since his trade demand. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had, from a leadership standpoint to the player he is.
“People are always asking me, ‘How is it like playing with AD?’ and I always tell them that he’s the most selfless superstar I’ve ever been around. … You see guys with a lot of egos and all that type of stuff, and AD has never been like that. Never been a selfish guy. Never been bigger than the team.”
Still, Davis reiterated Wednesday that no matter whom the Pelicans front office hires as its next general manager, his initial discussions with that person will be centered on how to work out a sensible trade for both sides, without any opening for a change of heart.
Team owner Gayle Benson has stated the Pelicans will do what's in their own self-interest, and there’s a chance those negotiations could bleed into next season — possibly the only thing that could add to this stranger-than-fiction story.
“I’ve played with him for six years, and hopefully I can play with him for more than that,” guard Jrue Holiday said. “I don’t think it would be weird at all if he came back next year. I know what he’s here for. He’s here to play basketball.”