Chicago native Anthony Davis, the top overall pick in Junes NBA Draft, didnt get to make his happy homecoming to his hometown in the Hornets win Saturday night over the Bulls at the United Center. The University of Kentucky product suffered a concussion in New Orleans game Friday evening and didnt travel to Chicago.
Still, the big manan unknown, 6-foot-2 guard at a charter school on the South Side just a few years agohas already made a big impression. Although Davis didnt play Saturday, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau prepared for him by studying on film and was impressed by what he saw.
Amazing, Thibodeau described. Hes a really skilled player. Hes a basketball player. He does everything. He can shoot, he can put it on the floor, he can pass, play great defense, great timing, shot-blocking, great quickness. Hes going to be a great pro.
Davis was billed as a shot-blocking presence with raw offensive ability, but early in his NBA career, hes showed that hes retained his guard skills on the offensive end of the court. At 6-foot-10, he has perimeter skills, include the ballhandling and outside shooting of a much smaller player.
He can handle it. He handles it like a guard. He can dribble, take people off the dribble, pull-up jump shots. Hes got all of that, Bulls rookie Marquis Teague, a college teammate of Davis, said. At Kentucky, he just did what Coach Cal Kentucky head coach John Calipari asked him to do. Coach Cal didnt want him to do all that. He just played his role.
Chimed in Hornets head coach Monty Williams: He can dribble, but he doesnt dribble unnecessarily. Hell do the things necessary for him to make a play and thats what I like about him. Hes efficient. He had a play against Miami, where he went full court and laid it up, and then, there are times where hell make one or two dribbles and make the right play, and hes still learning. Ive talked to him about exploring his game, so that when the game does slow down for himits real fast right nowhell be that much better, and his handle may be an asset to him. Right now, hes just using it to get out of certain situations.
Hes certainly getting used to the physicality of the game. Im still learning who he is as a player because he shoots the ball better than I thought, really good footwork, can handle the ball, pass, he continued. Conditioning and strength will be big for him. The stronger he gets, the less hell have to think about being tired or not being strong as guys hes going against. Then, Ill think well see more because hes not tired. Young guys are so tired because theyre not used to it, still growing. I think hes got another inch of growth. Hes a coachs dream. He really is because he does everything you tell him to do and some, still got a competitive edge.
Williams thinks Davis experience with USA Basketball over the summer, winning a gold medal in the London Olympics and playing alongside veteran superstars accelerated his development.
It really did help him, being around better players and more experienced guys, especially Tyson Chandler, said the coach, citing the former Bulls draft pick, last seasons NBA Defensive Player of the Year. I thought Tyson was going to be the biggest impact on him, just teaching him how to play that position in the NBA and I saw some of the residual effect of that when he got back. He was ahead of the curve in pick-and-roll defense and some other things on the block, so that experience and the coaching, being around Coach K Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Nate McMillan, the ex-Portland head coach and Williams former boss every day had to help.
Williams expressed his disappointment about Davis not being present prior to the game, criticizing the leagues new concussion protocol. The coach spoke to the player after Friday nights game, as well as Saturday morning.
Hes okay, just has to go through the testing. Unfortunately, the NBA is strict on concussions. I could say a lot about that, but Im not; Ill refrain. But hell be okay.
You just do what youve got to do. I dont know to coach outside of dealing with Ive got to deal with every day. We have no idea when hes going to be back. Its one of those situations that the NBA, the doctors and the medical staff, they have a protocol that has to take place before guys can get back on the floor. The better he feels the next couple of days, it helps the situation, he explained. He got touched up a little bit last night. That happens a lot in basketball. Its just that now they treat everybody like they have white gloves and pink drawers. Its getting old, but its just the way the league is now.
This city should be proud of who he is, not just as a player, but as a person. I could tell he was down that he couldnt come last night and it wasnt any fault of his own, but the rules say he cant fly. Its a mans game, man. Were treating these guys like theyre five years old. He desperately wanted to come, Williams continued. Im not saying I dont like it. Weve got to protect our players, but I think the players should have more say-so about how they feel. Im sure I had four or five concussions when I played and it didnt bother me. I think the NBA is doing whats necessary to protect the players, but this is not the NFL. You dont get hit in the head that much. So, I understand it, but as a coach, Im a baby about it. I want my guys ready to play, so thats basically the bottom line. Im just a baby.