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Davis improved interest of basketball in New Orleans but he was never the savior

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Published: February 24, 2019

When Chris Paul was on his way out of New Orleans, it was believed that interest in the NBA was on life support and that the incoming 2012 No. 1 overall pick that would become Anthony Davis was to be the city’s last chance to be relevant in basketball’s global arena.

Fast forward to today and we know that Davis wants out despite being eligible for a supermax. It’s also comedically apparent that he desires to join the Los Angeles Lakers, or anywhere else LeBron James and Klutch Sports may have an influence on.

So this must mean devastation for the Pelicans’ right to exist, right?

There’s no need to clutch your purple, green and gold plastic rosary. These birds will not be trading in their coffee and chicory for espresso anytime soon. That’s because while Anthony Davis did lift New Orleans at times, he was never the city’s savior that would bring longevity.

The entire world has been attracted to the physical phenomenon comes along with the evolution and growth of Davis as a player. New Orleans was certainly ready for the ride.

In the beginning, it was nice. Davis said all the right things. He won a college national championship in New Orleans with Kentucky and said that he wanted to bring a world championship to New Orleans after he was drafted. Everyone down south appreciated it.

However, as time passed some bad luck and some bad franchise decisions surrounded the team during Davis’ seven years here. His team qualified for playoffs only twice. His name often faded from the top of nationally mentioned lists.

If a team is failing you it is natural to want to move on, especially if winning if what you are after.

Winning.

I won’t catch you up with the dramatics. You should know them by now. Davis wants to play with James in LA. Winning is fun and money is nice, but what he really wants is to be an NBA star. That is the motivation behind hiring Rich Paul and being open to playing with a disappointing Lakers squad alongside an aging James. It’s more than a real possibility that Davis landing somewhere else can make him a better player and make his future team a contender.

Though we mostly have received an increasing number of ready-made non-answers to media questions from Davis, reading between lines leads me to believe he wants a major market profile. He believes, or at least has been convinced, that superstardom cannot be found in New Orleans.

While the Davis era in New Orleans has been disappointing in the win column, should the New Orleans market and the Pelicans be to blame for Davis’s lack of image around the NBA?

As time passed in New Orleans, Davis’s profile in the city seemed to drop off. His interview question answers were increasingly more ready-made. Fans in The Big Easy rarely were treated to any insights of his life off of the court. Local basketball fans love Davis for his talent and understand who he is in the grand scale of the NBA. However, he failed to force that cultural bond with the city that the Saints have. While many write that off as “Oh, New Orleans is a football town”, it’s actually more than that. New Orleans is a mood and a state of mind. It also has a chip on its shoulder. The sooner you identify with the desire to be different, you’ll be accepted.

Speaking of chips, Davis and Klutch decided to pull their shenanigans at the worst possible time in New Orleans.

Really? The day after a fluke no-call kept the Saints out of the Super Bowl?

Davis being the type of guy that allows other parties to speak for him seems to have done him some damage in this situation. I’m sure he will move on and be amazing, but for the moment he and his agency have been exposed. Klutch’s attempts to strongarm a franchise and the league to essentially work solely in the interest of James has been cartoonish at best. We have also been exposed to the sad desperation of major market teams like the Lakers and Knicks in how far they will go to reach some type of relevance in dominance again.

If Davis didn’t seem to be star-struck, he may realize the hypocrisy of the player he is trying so hard to align himself with. I personally don’t want to express a political opinion here, but I bring this up only because James has welcomed his voice as a critic of the president. If James disapproves of Donald Trump’s actions so much, then why is he mimicking him so much as a businessman and surrounding himself with individuals that do the same, strongarming teams and making ultimatums.

Fans in New Orleans wanted Davis to be the guy. They liked seeing him dominate and win. They loved him but they just weren’t in love with him. His dunks excited them, but he did not inspire a mania. Fans seemed to be more excited about drafting Buddy Hield or acquiring DeMarcus Cousins via trading Hield because both of those players had a story, personality, and built a relationship with the city. Both of those acquired players could have been New Orleans stars and both were sacrificed in favor of Davis.

The less talented remaining players seem happier on the court. They’re winning more games as Davis sees the court less. Jrue Holiday, family man and overall hard worker, seems to have assumed the leadership role and fans are “Jruing it big” out there. Everyone is just playing ball and not having to worry about if they are facilitating Davis enough. No fingers pointed.

Is Davis truly elite then? Yes. Should he have a shoe deal by now? Probably. But is the lack of a shoe deal to blame because New Orleans is such a bad market? Or is it because Davis was a world-class talent that couldn’t inspire an intimate market to be crazy about him?

You can say they would rather watch football, but ask people in bars in barbershops what they remember about Pete Maravich. Would they tell you that the pistol was a failure because the Jazz never reached the playoffs? Likely you’d be locked into an old man story about “the greatest guard you ever saw”.

With Davis, it seems we’ll forget about the Portland finger point with Holiday and likely remember the time he headed to the locker room, again, and like Elvis, left the building with Rich Paul on national television.

Holiday will be a fitting elder statesman. If the future additions are Zion Williamson, Jayson Tatum, or whoever else, I am willing to bet the city will embrace anyone that opens their arms the widest.

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