For the second consecutive season, Chicago native Anthony Davis has been sidelined when the time has come for him to play his first NBA game in his hometown.
Davis, the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, fractured his left hand in the Pelicans’ win Sunday over the Knicks in New York. Though the South Side product made the trip to Chicago, he wore street clothes on the sidelines and did not address the media before or after New Orleans’ 131-128 three-overtime victory over the Bulls at the United Center.
Pelicans head coach Monty Williams said there was no prognosis on Davis’ injury yet.
“We’re probably going to wait until we get home and he can see our doctors before we make any (decisions), at least on my part,” Williams said. “I haven’t gotten any more information. We’ve just got to wait until we get home.”
Davis was in the midst of a breakout campaign, emerging as one of the league’s top young big men, while displaying a multi-faceted game that includes dominant shot-blocking prowess, big-time rebounding ability and a versatile, dynamic offensive game with everything from running the floor in transition and handling the ball on the perimeter to knocking down open jumpers and playmaking for his teammates.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau coached alongside Williams as assistants for USA Basketball over the summer, so he got to witness Davis’ development firsthand during the Select Team’s mini-camp, in which the Perspectives Charter School graduated participated.
“He was terrific. I saw that this summer, and working with Monty, Monty told me all the work that he was putting into his game and you could see all the confidence that he had gained at USA Basketball,” Thibodeau explained. “He’s a very, very talented kid and it sounds like he’s made a very serious commitment to improving, and he’s got a great demeanor. He impacts the game in a lot of different ways. His defense, his shot-blocking, the way he can run the floor. Very unique.”
Davis missed last season’s Pelicans game in Chicago dealing with the aftermath of post-concussion syndrome, about which Williams’ colorful comments got him fined by the league.
“This time, I’m just not getting fined $25,000. That’s the only difference,” quipped the coach, who was otherwise dour in his demeanor. "He’s not playing. That’s OK. I made a comment, and I paid for it, move on. He certainly wanted to play here, and it’s one of the first things that he said to me when I got back in the locker room. He was like, ‘Two years in a row.’ It took me a minute to realize what he was talking about. He just really wanted to play here. I feel bad for him.”
While Davis’ injury could sideline him for a bit, it’s not expected to be a season-ending ailment, like the knee injury that has put another former No. 1 pick and former resident of the Englewood neighborhood, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, on the shelf for the remainder of the campaign. Still, Williams has something in common with Thibodeau, especially when one takes into consideration all of the games missed by Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon (coincidentally, Rose’s former AAU backcourt partner) over the past few seasons.
“Oh, we know better than anybody what injuries can do to your team. You’ve just got to figure out ways to put guys on the floor to help your team compete. I just remind guys all the time, ‘It’s the NBA. Nothing’s changed from that standpoint. You guys have to step up,’” said Williams, a former NBA player himself. “All the guys who wanted more playing time, they’re going to get it, so they’ve got to back up all that stuff they’ve been talking or thinking. That’s the nature of the NBA.”
Besides having players with major injuries in common, Thibodeau and Williams have bonded over basketball, due to their initial stint with the national team.
“I learned a lot, just being with him every day for a week. Just talking basketball, family, some of the people he knows that I know and just listening to the way he goes about his business, for me, is beneficial,” Williams recounted. “We had to compete against each other in the Blue-White game, and he snuck a trade in on me the day before the game. Thibs is a slick dude, man. He caught me in the hallway in the hotel in Vegas. I’m just trying to get to my room and get away from all that stuff, and he comes up to me with the trade and I’m like, ‘OK, Thibs. Whatever, man. I want to get to my family upstairs.’ He got me, but I learned a lot from him and I’m sure we’re going to become even closer as the years go on.”