NBA PM: Anthony Davis Relishes The Challenge
It’s not easy being both the top pick in the NBA draft and also the best player on your team embarking on a new season. That’s where Anthony Davis finds himself as preseason nears an end. He’s been the focus of opposing defenses, and as such has already taken some lumps, but he has the right mentality and is ready for the challenge.
“Yeah, it’s been great,’ Davis tells HOOPSWORLD. “Just got to keep working hard, it’s been tough on us, tough on me especially because of guys coming after me. I got to learn how to play through that and move onto the next game.”
The special attention he receives from opposing defenses present a problem, and Davis has struggled to score the ball at times as a result, but he still posted 13.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game over five preseason games.
“It’s just going to make me better, a better player,” says Davis. “I can see what my weaknesses are and see what I have to work on.”
Hornets head coach Monty Williams already sees some important signs of leadership from his young star and couldn’t be happier with his performance to date.
“He’s just a coach’s dream,” says Williams. “He handles the situations with wisdom that’s beyond his years. He listens, he’s humble, and yet he still has an edge. I saw him get on a few guys a couple games ago, and it kind of took me back. And he has some ways to go as far as allowing his body to mature. His game is going to develop as he explores. He’s going to be pretty special if he continues to work and allow himself to be coached the way he has so far. He’s just an amazing kid.”
There’s no doubt that Davis has a great deal of respect for his new coach.
“Just got to listen to coach, he knows what he’s talking about,” says Davis. “He’s been coaching for a long time and he’s the coach for a reason, I just got to listen and go out there and execute. I just try to do what he tells me to do.”
That doesn’t mean that Davis will hesitate to call someone out if he sees a teammate who isn’t following the game plan laid out by Williams. He feels players bear a share of the responsibility for keeping each other in line.
“I just try to go out there and have fun,” says Davis. “If guys are messing up, I’m going to say something to them because I expect the same back. If I mess up and am out of position, I want them to tell me because it’s going to make the team better. We can’t just go out there and let somebody mess up, we all got to be accountable, that’s what’s going to make us better.”
Davis and fellow first round pick Austin Rivers have quite a load on their shoulders. There are veterans like Eric Gordon and Roger Mason to lean on a bit, but this year’s Hornets team will only be as successful as their rookie duo.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a challenge for us,” admits Davis. “We’re just going to try and go out there and have fun.”
It hasn’t been all work for Davis, of course. He has an all-business approach, but can also admit that working with Team USA and making it to the NBA are dreams come true for him.
“Yeah, it’s been great for me, I’ve experienced a lot things,” says Davis. “I’ve just got to try and stay humble and keep moving.”
That, in a nutshell, is Anthony Davis. He’s going to outwork everyone in the gym, take his coaches’ words to heart, and do his best to not let any of his successes go to his head.
The New Orleans Hornets can’t ask for anything more.
The Demise of the NBA Center Position
There was a time, not so long ago, when an NBA team absolutely had to have a great center if they were going to hope to win the championship. The paint around the league was patrolled by the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Brad Daugherty, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to name a few. In the 1980′s and 1990′s you either had to have an elite center or Michael Jordan if you were going to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy, and one of the toughest things for fans to do was to pick just one center on their annual All-Star ballot.
In recent years, of course, the game has changed. It’s now all about the versatile, quick players who can blow by opponents and fly down the lane for a dunk. There is more emphasis on three-point shooting and the mid-range game, with fewer and fewer coaches leaning on big men playing with their backs to the basket as a primary offensive set. Finesse seven-footers like Dirk Nowitzki and Andrea Bargnani are now more the norm, while the number of dominant low post centers in the modern NBA can almost be counted on two fingers: Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.
Hakeem Olajuwon will turn 50 years old in January, yet he ran circles around New York Knicks big man Amar’e Stoudemire in workouts over the summer. The modern NBA big man simply isn’t built the way they were a decade or two ago.
This is the state of the NBA as the league announces today that the All-Star ballot will no longer require fans to choose a center as they stuff their local ballot boxes. Instead, fans can choose any three front court players, regardless of position. Here’s the press release:
For the first time, the NBA All-Star Ballot presented by Sprint will feature two position choices, guards and frontcourt, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations Stu Jackson announced today.
Fans will select two guards and three frontcourt players when choosing the starters for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game. Previously, the ballot featured three positions with fans picking two guards, two forwards and a center.
“The NBA’s competition committee and the league office agreed that having the center position as the only specific position singled out on the ballot was outdated and not representative of today’s game or players,” Jackson said. “Our players have become more versatile each season, and this ballot will more accurately reflect that versatility.”
The 2013 NBA All-Star Ballot presented by Sprint will be unveiled on Tuesday, Nov. 13 during a special event in Houston.
It is at least of interest that the new ballot will be unveiled in Houston, where the Rockets have long been defined by their All-Star centers. Moses Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon are Hall of Famers, of course, and Yao Ming was easily on that track before injuries forced him into early retirement. Now the Rockets are as devoid of centers as is the NBA as a whole. Time marches on and things change.
But count me among those who long for the good old days, when seven-footers ruled the paint, skyhooks rained down from above, and the Dream Shake left opponents on their hands and knees looking for their athletic supporters.
Denver Nuggets Not Quite There Yet
Many around the NBA, including this writer, expect the Denver Nuggets to be among the Western Conference’s best teams this season. They have an improved front line with JaVale McGee in place and they added an outstanding defender and X-factor type of player in Andre Iguodala via the Dwight Howard trade. The Nuggets are deep at every position, and aside from consistent three-point shooting they don’t have any obvious weaknesses. Still, Nuggets head coach George Karl is not ready to call his group ready for action just yet.
“I would have to give a grade of B+,” Karl said of his team’s preseason performance while talking to KFAN in Denver. “I think we’ve played good basketball; we have our players playing at a high level. I think we’re competing in the right way. We’re not 100 percent yet. The last couple games, the three-ball has gotten crazy on us, which we thought was one of our weaknesses last year, covering the three-ball. We’re trying to, philosophically, get a little better there. I think what I’m excited about is I’ve got so many guys on this team that have a window of improvement, and maybe a big window of improvement. It’s just exciting to have a foundation like that.”
One reason Nuggets fans are particularly hopeful about this season’s team is the return of McGee, whom the Nuggets acquired last season. He had some brilliant moments against the Los Angeles Lakers in postseason play last year, but has had his ups and downs in preseason.
“For me it’s just his consistency,” said Karl. “The game of basketball has a lot of possessions to it. JaVale has this way of doing the spectacular. He has a highlight-reel type of talent, but there’s so many possessions that you’ve just got to be smart and consistent and fundamentally sound. I think too many times he doesn’t give the mental focus to those possessions. Sometimes he’s a spectacular defender; other times he’s a reactor at the defensive end of the court. We just want him to be more consistent.”
As Karl has often said, he believes his team can compete for a championship without a labeled “star.” He does believe, however, that among his young players are candidates to be future stars, and that those players can drive a deep postseason run.
“I think if we win basketball games, there’s going to be a star that’s going to evolve,” said Karl. “We kind of have our thoughts on that. I think the best team wins NBA championships year-in and year-out. It’s not the most talented team that wins NBA championships. I just think it’s the team that understands the job, has a together attitude and then kind of catches the chemistry in the playoffs. Dallas two years ago wasn’t that top-notch NBA basketball team, but they beat the Lakers, swept the Lakers, got some confidence and Dirk Nowitzki went crazy and won an NBA championship. I just think we have guys — not as talented as probably Dirk — but we have young guys. If we can be successful in the first round of an NBA playoffs, I think we can roll and figure out who evolves. I think evolving is a part of the NBA. I think you’re going to see, this year, one or two surprise teams in the NBA.”
Karl believes that the key to his team’s growth and potential this season is fighting through the ebbs and flows of the 82-game NBA season.
“I think, again, a lot of our youthfulness, our young roster, they’ve got to grow up,” said Karl. “Part of the process is understanding the NBA season. It’s 82 games and there are a lot of times in the NBA season that you’re going to struggle. You’re going to play San Antonio, the Lakers and Dallas back to back to back, and you’re not going to have a lot of success. But you’ve got to sustain your confidence, you’ve got to sustain your development. I just think we have young guys that have shown they’re already into that commitment and they have a growth plate that’s going to be bigger and better.”
Karl is confident that his team will come together, and expects them to be fighting for home court advantage come playoff time.
“I think the best way for me, my expectation is get home court,” said Karl. “That’s what I think we’re capable of doing. Nobody can predict injuries and circumstances in an 82-game season, but I think if we stay mentally and physically healthy and stay strong, I would like to see us battling in April for that fourth, third or fourth, seed, maybe even a second seed. … There’s, I would say, 12 or 13 teams that I think have a chance to make the playoffs.”
HOOPSWORLD Season Previews
The 2012-13 NBA season is rapidly approaching and there are plenty of early storylines emerging.
Can the Miami HEAT repeat their championship quest from last season? Is this the final championship run for the aging Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs? Will Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finally put all of their talent together and join the league’s elite? Can the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, now boasting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, unseat the Oklahoma City Thunder as Western Conference champions? Is this the year the Minnesota Timberwolves reach the playoffs behind All-Star Kevin Love? Likewise, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors are poised to make playoff runs of their own, but can they seal the deal? Are the Dallas Mavericks toast, or will their new group of hungry veterans surprise us all?
The HOOPSWORLD team has these questions and more all covered and you can find season previews for all 30 NBA teams by following this LINK.
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