Anthony Davis spent 7 years as the most accountability-free star in sports

The kid-glove treatment wasn't enough to save the AD era in NOLA

Seth Dunlap
December 27, 2018 - 7:31 pm

If the Anthony Davis era in New Orleans was some grand experiment on how small or mid-sized markets treat their superstars, consider the last seven years a disastrous failure for our city and the Pelicans franchise.

Treatment of Davis during his tenure with the Pelicans has always resembled something akin to parents watching their kid play tee ball or youth soccer.  From fans, from some (most?) media members, and certainly by the Pelicans' organization itself. Every misstep was treated with a proverbial pat on the head from fans and an "atta boy" from the local blogosphere.  Every missed shot in crunch time was always hand-waved away as somebody else's fault.  Every silly foul was, of course, always the fault of those terrible officials.   Each loss was always the fault of Eric Gordon, or Solomon Hill, or Jrue Holiday, or Ryan Anderson, or Pierre the Pelican.  

Throngs of onlookers would cheer at each thunderous dunk, all of the incredible blocked shots, and certainly every highlight-reel athletic absurdity from Davis that would eventually find its way to the nightly sports highlight reels.   The explosion of Sports Twitter coincided with the rise of Davis to superstardom.   Every game night you were sure to see thousands of Davis highlights, commentaries, and general online oogling on the platform.   It did make Davis' time here in New Orleans feel a bit more special.

Now, that time seems to be coming to an end.  The Pelicans are 15-20, the second-worst record in the NBA's Western Conference, and a possible Anthony Davis trade is perhaps the biggest sports story in the country right now -- even with the NFL Playoffs looming.   That in itself is a remarkable feat.

The Anthony Davis era for the Pelicans has been completely bungled inside the organization in many ways, but perhaps the most glaring issue was the complete lack of accountability for Davis.  Kid-gloves doesn't do service to how Davis was treated by the organization, fans, and the media.  A better analogy might be if the Charmin bear wore those kid gloves while only approaching Davis if he were in a gravity-free room lined with bubble-wrap.

It was a bit refreshing to see, finally, some locally question Davis' leadership ability this season.  If you're supposed to be one of the three-or-so best basketball players on the planet shouldn't you be able to elevate Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, E'twaun Moore and company to something more respectable than one of the worst records in the NBA?   

Cue the commenters here about Dell Demps, the team's injuries, salary cap situation or whatever other excuse is lined up.  The fact remains that Davis has won five total playoff games in six-plus seasons with the team.  He's won one playoff series.  

If LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden or (insert superstar here) has that auspicious of a beginning to their career don't you think they would have been held a bit more to account than Davis has here.

Last season, during the Pelicans push towards the playoffs, I wrote this piece on what I saw as an obvious lack-of-focus from Davis on actually winning basketball games during a playoff stretch-run.   He was promoting some weird April Fools joke and endorsement deal on Twitter while the Pelicans were, at that time, fading from the playoff picture. 

Immediately, something resembling Pelicans Twitter Illuminati took me to task for even suggesting mild criticism of Davis.  In any form.  

That in a pretty perfect snapshot of how ridiculous the treatment of Davis has been here for almost seven years.   Davis has been far from a perfect basketball player.  He has consistently been a non-factor late in games, underperformed too much against the best teams and players in the NBA, and has completely failed to elevate nearly any of his teammates around him.   

Now, Davis was a 19 year old kid when he entered the NBA.  He needed a franchise, teammates, coaches, a general manager, and, yes, even media and fans to voice their criticism when it was warranted.  How many lessons has Davis failed to learn during his time in New Orleans because nearly everybody was afraid to (gasp!) make their superstar player mad.   "Don't criticize him, he'll leave for a bigger market!" would so often go the refrain form people without any backbone.  

Well, guess where he's going now?  Let this be a lesson on turning your sports fandom into some cult-like obsession with a far from imperfect star player.


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