Anthony Davis the star of New Orleans Pelicans show, but support cast not winning any awards

On almost any night, against almost any team, Anthony Davis steps on to the court as the best player there. The maddening reality, it must be for him, is that it is also almost never with the best team, writes Jonathan Raymond.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) drives the lane against San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge . Darren Abate / AP Photo
New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) drives the lane against San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge . Darren Abate / AP Photo

On almost any night, against almost any team, Anthony Davis steps on to the court as the best player there. The maddening reality, it must be for him, is that it is also almost never with the best team.

The most common critique of the game of basketball is that it is a one-man game.

Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James. The greats are measured irrespective of their surrounding casts – all-star appearances, MVP awards and, above all, titles – and the game tends to be viewed through just that prism. It is not an entirely illegitimate framework to work with.

The best usually have someone else good enough to lift them to the heights their individual talents seem to necessitate. Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Bryant had Shaquille O’Neal, then Pau Gasol. James had Dwyane Wade, then Kyrie Irving.

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Poor Anthony Davis, though, has no one.

It might be harsh to judge the New Orleans Pelicans so definitively through just four games into the new NBA season. But it has at least been just as harsh on observers, watching the team and seeing how barren things are around Davis.

He has played nearly 38 minutes per game, a staggering amount, and scored 37 points per contest. He has tossed in 13 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals and three blocks. It is almost numbing in its statistical comprehensiveness as it is individually awe-striking.

And, yes, it has only been four games – but for those otherworldly efforts, he has yet to win this season.

Even once.

Sometimes he will seem to resign himself to taking the ball. Davis has never appeared to be a selfish player by nature – he is a very good passer – but if no one else is able to put the ball in the hoop, it is inevitably up to him.

And Davis needs to defend the interior, because no one else on his team is as effective. He also needs to defend the perimeter, because he can. Davis needs to create offence off the dribble, breaking down the defence, because no other Pelican really is able to. He must rebound. Initiate.

Davis must shoot threes, which he is not even all that great at, because ... well you get the picture.

To be fair to the Pelicans, there are bright spots: Buddy Hield holds promise and Tim Frazier has come out of nowhere as a contributor. But Jrue Holiday is injured. Again. Tyreke Evans is hurt. Omer Asik’s game has collapsed.

The other new band-aid arrivals – Terrence Jones, E’Twaun Moore, Solomon Hill, Lance Stephenson – are insufficient.

Davis is perhaps as talented a player to ever come along with as meagre a supporting cast in the NBA.

As dominant as Wilt Chamberlain was in the 1960s and ’70s, he only won two titles – and he had Hall of Fame teammates such as Hal Greer, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. Davis is treading those waters without much help.

The saddest part is that it has been this way in New Orleans pretty much since the day Davis was taken with the first pick in the 2012 draft.

The good news for him is he is still just 23. He has plenty of time to fulfil his potential.

The Pelicans though, if they flop again this year, will have wasted another year of Davis’s talent.

He is on a long-term contract, but it would be hard to blame him if he starts to want out.

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Published: November 2, 2016 04:00 AM

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