NEW ORLEANS — The presence, or lack thereof, of Anthony Davis was unmistakable on Wednesday as the Pelicans played the Denver Nuggets, the first home game for team since Davis’ trade request became public on Monday.
Davis was absent through almost the entirety of the team’s pregame hype video prior to tipoff, and he was removed from an image of the entire Pelicans roster with the motto “Do It Big” at the conclusion of the video.
Davis, who is still out because of a finger fracture, sat mostly inconspicuously on the end of the bench during the game, joining in on timeout huddles and cheering on his teammates. The tone in the arena was mostly tepid, with a couple scattered signs and possibly an extra level of support for Jrue Holiday, who was loudly cheered during starting introductions. When Davis emerged from the tunnel prior to the game, a couple of fans booed, but it was hardly noticeable. One fan held a sign near the Pelicans bench that read “AD, LeBron won’t love you like we do.”
Davis has not spoken publicly since his trade request, but is expected to address reporters after the team’s practice on Friday. He’s due to return from his injury in the coming days, but when asked if Davis would play another game for the franchise once he’s cleared, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was unsure.
“That’s a hard thing to answer,” he said. “I don’t really know how to answer that. I assume that he will. That’s something that will obviously have to be discussed about what’s best for him, and what’s best for our team.”
Team owner Gayle Benson addressed the team pregame in the locker room, congratulating them on beating the Rockets on Tuesday. Late in that win, Davis was active in huddles, talking with Gentry and assistant coaches. Despite the clear discomfort in the situation, Gentry said it’s mostly business as usual.
“It’s not awkward at all,” Gentry said. “I think if you ask every guy in the locker room they’ll tell you the same thing. He’s the same guy. He asked to be traded, but he’s the same guy. All the sudden his personality didn’t change and all of the sudden we don’t feel differently about him at all. It’s one of those things. We’ll have to manage it as an organization and he’ll have to manage it as an individual and we’ll get through the whole thing.
“AD is a good kid,” he said. “A good, solid kid. The guys in the locker room, obviously, like him and he likes them. Nothing has changed from a coaching standpoint. It was within his right to do, to ask for that. It’s out there, but the one thing we can’t do as coaches and players and as a team is we can’t that be an excuse for us or two, affect the way we think or what we’re trying to do.”