NO.pelicansgm.041819.cg_8.JPG

New Orleans Pelicans announced David Griffin as the new executive vice president of basketball operations on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

David Griffin isn’t posturing.

He wants to keep Anthony Davis in New Orleans. And he’s not afraid to say it.

“I’m extremely optimistic relative to opportunity that lies ahead of us in the form of Anthony Davis,” Griffin said during his introductory news conference.

Considering the drudgery and acrimony Davis created over the past four months, it’s a jarring sentence to hear behind a New Orleans Pelicans’ podium.

But, honestly, why wouldn’t Griffin feel that way? The Pelicans’ new executive vice president doesn’t hold any hard feelings about Davis, who requested a trade 18 months before his contract expires.

He’s not offended by Davis’ “That’s All Folks” choice of t-shirt, or his public preference for the NBA’s 29 other teams, or the dismissive farewell he plans to give on Instagram, or even the bizarrely awkward games he participated in for 20 minutes with one foot out of the door.

No, none of that is Griffin’s concern. That bitterness lives elsewhere.

Griffin’s only job is to build the Pelicans into consistent winners. It’s easier to do it with a proven All-NBA superstar than without one. Under the circumstances, Griffin isn’t crazy for believing he can flip the script.

Not only does Griffin have a sterling relationship with Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, due to LeBron James’ experience in Cleveland, Paul has seen Griffin succeed. Throughout this prolonged melodrama, Davis pointed to his desire to compete for championships as the driving force in his decision-making, and after suffering through five losing seasons in seven years, he simply didn’t believe it could unfold in New Orleans.

Griffin wants to alter the narrative in Davis’ mind, purging the losses he slogged through and replacing them with the hope of renewal, without even needing to change his address or sacrifice a dollar of the $235 million contract extension he’s entitled to this summer.

“I think there’s going to be appreciation on his part for the fact that I would not have come here if it wasn’t for the fact that Mrs. (Gayle) Benson and her ownership team weren’t completely committed to winning,” Griffin said to ESPN on Tuesday. “They very much are. Because of that, I think some of the concerns that Anthony probably had, we’re going to be able to alleviate. I feel like there is reason to be optimistic that he’s going to be open minded to coming back.

“But the real question is, what does it look like and can we give each other what we really need and be the sort of expression of greatness for one another. I hope that we can. But it’s certainly not something we believe can’t happen.”

Sources say the two sides are expected to meet next month. There will be more information then, but even the concept of Davis wearing a Pelicans jersey again feels foreign, bearing in mind the tumultuous and alienating road he’s travelled in 2019.

But it’s important to remember how some key remaining figures handled the tricky Davis situation. Coach Alvin Gentry declined to bad-mouth Davis despite the ugliness, and even lauded his professionalism toward the end of the season, when both sides were stuck in a tricky limbo.

Jrue Holiday, who openly said he’s ready to embrace being the face of the franchise, has never once publicly criticized Davis, despite his longest-tenured teammate yearning to ditch him for a more fabled franchise.

And fans are, well, fans. Players have returned from more damaging situations (see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James) and easily regained the admiration of those in the arena.

An uncomfortable apology and some wins will likely salve the wounds of even those who booed Davis on his home court.

“I know the type of character Anthony has and I think this city deep down knows it because he’s been here since the beginning of his career,” Holiday told The Advocate in March. “So, it hasn’t been a distraction to me and I don’t think it’s been a distraction to my teammates. Anthony is still the same person and nothing has changed between us. Even what he does in 20 minutes is really good.

“Nothing to me has changed. I know there’s gray area because the inevitable is going to happen. But while he’s still here we try to appreciate him.”

So, maybe courting Davis just seems weirder than it should be, because we’ve all lived through this spectacle and so many of us pined to see it conclude. If Griffin succeeds though, it will merely be a footnote in his New Orleans saga when his jersey is raised into the rafters 15 years from now.

While the possibilities are remote, Griffin’s approach is a necessary one.

Davis wanted a change, and while it might be in the same place geographically, it’s Griffin’s job to illustrate the Pelicans aren’t what they were just a few months ago. In turn, he will need Davis to illustrate he’s not the same person who wanted out, by requiring him to sign the supermax extension that locks him into a long-term home.

The history is heavy, the emotions are raw and the sell isn’t easy, but for Griffin, it’s a pitch worth making.

“I think you resolve the Davis situation when you look in each other’s eyes and know where each other lives,” Griffin said. “I think it resolves itself at that point.”