Anthony Davis, Alvin Gentry opposites when it comes to professionalism

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NEW ORLEANS – It was probably the last game with the Pelicans for both Anthony Davis and Alvin Gentry.

If indeed both will be moving on after the season-ending 112-103 loss to Golden State on Tuesday night, the departures could hardly be more different.

While Davis could have been serenaded out of the Smoothie King Center to “Hit the Road, Jack,” an appropriate walk-off song for Gentry would have been “Happy Trails.”

Every other team in the NBA would like to get Davis, a 26-year-old star, when New Orleans moves to accommodate his trade request this off-season.

It’s unlikely any other team will give another head-coaching opportunity to Gentry a 64-year-old journeyman who has lost more games than he has won while guiding five different franchises.

But if Davis’ value and Gentry’s value were judged solely on how they each have handled this circus of a season, it would be Davis that would be scrambling to find a new home and Gentry that would be swarmed with suitors.

Let’s remember how we got to this crossroads.

In late January, Davis asked the Pelicans to trade him.

As it turns out, that was the least objectionable thing he has done recently.

Davis has played seven years in New Orleans. He’s one of the most talented young players in the NBA. He wants to win championships and that doesn’t seem likely to happen here any time soon.

So he wants to go somewhere that gives him a better chance to win a championship.

Fair enough.

But Davis, his new agent (Rich Paul) and Paul’s most famous client, Lakers forward LeBron James, have bungled every step in their push to have Davis and James united in L.A.

First, Paul went public with Davis’ trade request, which is against NBA rules, thus earning Davis a $50,000 fine. Of course $50,000 is nothing to Davis, but the unprofessional way in which the trade request was handled was an indication that this maneuvering was in the hands of amateurs.

In the Pelicans’ final game before the All-Star Break, Davis suffered a minor shoulder injury. When it was determined that he would not return to the game, he left the Smoothie King Center while his teammates were scrambling to a victory against a red-hot Oklahoma City team.

Gradually both the Pelicans and the Lakers disintegrated as Davis’ minutes were limited to about 20 per game (none in the fourth quarter) – which could be called “a Marshawn Lynch” because the organization played him just so it wouldn’t be fined.

Then suddenly, Davis didn’t play in any of the last seven games because of mysterious lower back spasms.

Davis showed up for his farewell in the Smoothie King Center sporting a T-shirt inscribed with those immortal words from Porky Pig: “That’s all Folks.”

Pelicans fans already had moved on from Davis. The boos that greeted him in the immediate aftermath of the trade demand gradually were mixed with some cheers and ultimately replaced by well-deserved apathy.

But Davis wasn’t content to accept a truce, wave goodbye and silently slink off into the off-season and then his new home, wherever that winds up being.

Instead he chose to figuratively flip off the fans as he had literally flipped off an individual fan six days earlier.

Anthony Davis filed for this divorce and he’s the one who chose to make the terms messy.

Meanwhile, Gentry has been the person charged with trying to clean up the mess.

He has had to coach the team that Davis no longer wants to be a part of. He has had to explain the ridiculous decision to semi-play Davis within constraints set forth by the NBA and the Pelicans brass, not to mention being hamstrung by numerous injuries to key players.

Through it all, Gentry has stayed focused on his responsibility – to make the most of what he has had to work with. The result was a 33-49 record, which isn’t very good, but which under the circumstances isn’t too bad either.

Before what was probably his last game as New Orleans’ coach, Gentry offered a message to Pelicans fans, who have been mostly indifferent, and periodically hostile, toward him for four seasons.

“I really appreciate the support that they give,” Gentry said. “I’ve been to a lot of cities in the NBA, and I think I can say, the dedication and the fan support that you have here, especially the loyal ones, is second to none. They deserve to have a good team and they deserve a team that’s going to get to the playoffs.

“They’ve lifted these guys up when we’ve been really down. I remember the one game that they gave a standing ovation at halftime. I’ve not seen that at any other arena or team that I’ve been with. I really appreciate the fans and we’re going to do everything that we possibly can to make sure we put a product on the floor that they can be really proud of.”

This year’s product wasn’t very good and no one knows who will stick around to be part of next year’s product.

When the Pelicans trade Davis, his points, rebounds and defense will be difficult to replace.

But if they choose to fire Gentry, his professionalism, dignity and class might be more difficult to replace.

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Les East

Les East

CCS/Times-Picayune

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…

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