NBA PM: Davis Poised for Breakout Season
The New Orleans Pelicans will be virtually unrecognizable entering the 2013-14 season. Not only has the team changed its moniker, uniforms and color scheme, they have a number of a new faces in the lineup. Over the offseason, the team traded for Jrue Holiday and signed Tyreke Evans. Eric Gordon will also be completely healthy for the start of a season for the first time in years.
The No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft is still just 20 years old, but he had an impressive rookie season and worked very hard over the offseason to expand his game and bulk up significantly. The results have been outstanding, with Davis averaging 19.9 points, two blocks and 1.75 steals in the preseason despite playing just 27.4 minutes. He’s much more comfortable on the floor now than he was last season.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Davis told HOOPSWORLD. “The game has slowed down for me, I see the floor better, I’m taking my time when I’m getting the ball and I’ve gotten a lot stronger. I’ve gotten mentally stronger as well. It just all comes from Coach [Monty Williams] and his staff. They have been working with me, going over film with me, whatever it may be to make sure that I keep getting better.”
Many around the organization believe that Davis is poised for a breakout season, with some people around the league believing he’ll make his first All-Star appearance in 2013-14. The big man says that his goal is just to get better every day and do whatever he can to help the team reach its full potential. More important than individual accolades, Davis hopes to make his postseason debut this year.
“We’re going to get better and work toward that, but nothing is guaranteed,” Davis said of the team’s playoff goal. “As long as we keep working, play hard and defend, I think we’re capable of beating any team in the league. When we play Pelicans basketball, we’re a very tough team to beat.”
Holiday, who singled out Davis as the biggest reason for the Pelicans’ 7-1 preseason record, has been really impressed with the big man and his development.
“[He’s a] killer,” Holiday said of Davis. “I mean, I don’t think people really got to see how athletic he is, how well he can shoot and his skill set. Just being able to play with him this year, and even seeing him in the preseason what he’s been averaging, it looks like it’s been easy for him.”
Davis is just as excited to play alongside Holiday and Evans. He was thrilled with New Orleans’ offseason acquisitions and he believes they’ll make his life easier and improve the team for years to come.
“I’m very excited,” Davis said when asked about the team’s additions. “With Tyreke coming in, he can drive the ball, shoot it, find guys and Jrue is the same way. I’m glad those guys were brought in … We have a lot of new guys and it’s great to play with them. Those guys can really attack the basket and take the attention of me, Eric, Austin [Rivers], Brian [Roberts], Ryan [Anderson] and all of our guys who can score the ball. They’ll open the floor and make it tough on teams when they’re playing defense.
“Not only can they [get the ball inside], they can score the ball. When Jrue is attacking, when Tyreke is attacking, when Eric is attacking or Austin or Brian, whoever it is, they’re great scorers – all five of them – so that takes attention off of me and the other bigs. Then, teams can’t help on us. It’s great. Sometimes you get tired when the ball just keeps coming to you. Now, those guys can score the ball well so I can focus on other things too like rebounding, setting screens or whatever the case may be.”
One of the biggest issues for Davis during his rookie season was staying healthy. He missed 18 games due to a variety of injuries. The fact that the teenage Davis wasn’t nearly as strong as the bigs he was facing could’ve been part of the problem, as could the NBA’s rigorous 82-game schedule. One of the biggest reason that Davis added weight and muscle over the summer is so that he can stay healthy and get through the season without being sidelined again.
“I want to make sure that I stay healthy and I’m trying to do the best that I can,” Davis said. “[I’m] taking care of my body, whether that’s in the weight room or training room or whatever the case may be.”
This summer, Davis participated in Team USA’s minicamp in Las Vegas. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said that Davis was one of the most impressive players in attendance at the minicamp. There’s no question that Davis has a higher upside than just about every player in the NBA. While he was very good last season, this could be the year that the Pelicans’ big man emerges as a great player.
Xavier Henry Continues to Turn Heads
How surprising was Xavier Henry’s 22-point outburst for the Los Angeles Lakers in their season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers? Henry had never led a team in scoring in his 134-game career and nobody expected him to become a significant contributor in Los Angeles.
In fact, even after spending all of training camp and preseason with him, many of his teammates still aren’t sure how to pronounce his name (ZAV-ee-aye).
“I don’t even worry about it,” Henry told ESPNLosAngeles.com after hitting 8-of-13 shots and grabbing six rebounds. “A lot of them call me ‘X,’ ‘Zav,’ ‘Zay.’ They make it work. They know that I know when they’re calling me, so it doesn’t matter to me.”
Henry was a surprise performer for the Lakers during the preseason, averaging 11.9 points and making the roster despite playing on a non-guaranteed deal.
Henry was considered a bust when the Lakers picked him up. He had been the 12th overall pick by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012, but hadn’t lived up to his potential. On his third team in four years, the 22-year-old seems to be emerging as the player everyone expected him to be.
“His talent level is as good as anybody, anywhere,” Mike D’Antoni said before Tuesday’s game. “When the lights come on, can he do it? His shooting is improved. You tell him one thing — he was driving all the time with his head down — and you say, ‘You got to kick it out some,’ and the next game he kicks it out 2-3 times. So, if he can learn like that and he can understand it and get into a game like that, he can be really good.”
He proved that he can do it when the lights come on, leading the Lakers to victory against their L.A. rivals.
“I’ve never changed my mind about what kind of player I am, how hard I’ve worked and what kind of player I can be on the court,” Henry said.