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NEW ORLEANS — The boos became deafening the moment Anthony Davis first stepped on the court and anytime he touched the ball. After spending 2 ½ hours fighting through a competitive opponent and hostile crowd, though, Davis soon witnessed some other sights and sounds.
Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ 114-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday at Smoothie King Arena, Davis completed a walk-off interview that covered plenty of ground about his dominance, facing his former team and hearing the negative backlash. So LeBron James stood patiently at the end of the court for Davis to finish talking.
Once that happened, the two superstar teammates embraced each other. And why not? Davis logged a season-high 41 points, while James added 29 points and 11 assists. So after congratulating each other, the two then walked toward the entrance tunnel. At that moment, legions of Lakers fans drowned out the boos with loud cheers.
“We try to wait for each other. It’s something we do for whoever’s out there talking so we don’t leave anybody behind,” Davis said. “But the L.A. fans are important to us. And a game like this when there’s a lot of Pelicans fans here, it felt like another game where we were at home.”
LeBron James waits patiently for Anthony Davis to finish his walkoff interview. James and AD embrace. Then they leave the court to a bunch of cheers from Lakers fans pic.twitter.com/UZQWJ8bSL6
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) 28 November 2019
Davis had called this place home for the last seven years. So nearly eight months after his trade request went public and four months after the New Orleans Pelicans made a deal, the Lakers’ newest star finally faced the music. Davis heard a chorus of boos long enough to fill a soundtrack.
Davis maintained those sounds did not bother him, though. He mostly focused on helping the Lakers (16-2) cement their ninth consecutive win in various ways against the Pelicans (6-12). While he received medical treatment on his right elbow after colliding with Josh Hart over a loose rebound at the end of the third quarter, the Lakers opened the final period with a 13-2 run. After he reentered the game with 7:41 remaining, Davis cemented the win by showing off his versatile skillset. He threw down a lob within 16 seconds of his return. He grabbed a rebound off JJ Redick’s miss 3 and split a pair of foul shots that gave the Lakers a 112-110 lead with 5.3 seconds left. Davis then stole the ball off an inbounds pass before making a pair foul shots for a 114-110 cushion with 4.2 seconds remaining.
How appropriate for Davis to crush the Pelicans’ hearts once again. As Lakers teammate Kyle Kuzma mused, “New Orleans fans should probably boo their own team for letting him to get 40 when he comes back.”
“It just happened to work out that way. I just wanted to get the win,” Davis said. “It was fun to me. I had a great time playing.”
And Davis had fun by somehow tuning out the noise. A good chunk of Lakers fans also drowned out some of the boos when Davis first emerged from the entrance tunnel and anytime he performed a highlight reel move. Otherwise, the noise became too loud to ignore.
Pelicans fans booed Davis during lineup introductions. They booed him anytime he touched the ball. They booed him when he went to the free-throw line.“Some people are going to boo. Some people boo and they don’t even know why,” James said. “They just want to be a part of the spectacle. Some people are not even from New Orleans and are here for the game and they just be booing. But you heard a lot of cheers tonight for AD as well because they still love him and they still love the people that he spent seven years with and that relationship there.”
Those Pelicans fans likely would have booed Davis had the Pelicans played a tribute video as most NBA teams do for players that either left them on their own or through a trade. The Pelicans declined to do so.
That snub did not seem to bother Davis, though.
“Everyone thinks I got a vendetta against New Orleans or something like that. Me and everybody are cool,” Davis said. “I have no ill will toward anybody. I’m in a happy place, they’re in a happy place. We’re just here to play basketball.”
Davis appeared intent on providing a highlight reel in real time. Kuzma observed that Davis belted out rap lyrics on the way to the game for the first time all season. Davis’ teammates told him beforehand that “we don’t want to leave this building without a win.”
Yet, Lakers coach Frank Vogel forewarned, “we’re not going to try to force feed him; we’re going to play our style of basketball.”
Nonetheless, the Lakers opened the game with Davis taking seven field-goal attempts. Davis missed a 19-foot jumper 14 seconds into the game. James threw a lob to an open Davis just over a minute into the game. Davis then missed his next two shots. Soon enough, though, it became a good strategy for the Lakers to look for Davis against an undersized Pelicans team.
“He performed unbelievably,” Vogel said. “It was a tough environment, getting booed every time he touched the basketball. Playing against a bunch of guys that know him and playing against a coach that knows him, he put all that stuff aside, blocked out the noise and rose to the challenge.”
After rising to that challenge, Davis made more memories. He entered the Pelicans’ locker room to swap jerseys with former teammate Jrue Holiday. He talked with Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry after the two already caught up at halftime. He dapped with New Orleans general manager David Griffin. He wished rookie Zion Williamson good health after he opening the season with a right knee injury. Seven years after the Pelicans selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Davis still has warm feelings for the franchise.
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