It Just Didn’t Work: Pelicans, Anthony Davis to part ways seeking elusive success

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Anthony Davis

When Anthony Davis arrived in New Orleans, with a national championship from his one season at Kentucky and a seemingly limitless amount of potential, he was supposed to be the next chosen one.

Like Tim Duncan or LeBron James, ‘AD’ was going to carry the New Orleans Pelicans into the national spotlight and into the role of a perennial NBA contender.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

Six and a half seasons have brought plenty of personal accolades and honors for Davis, but precious little team success for the Pels.

As the team continued to tread water, the Pelicans’ grip on Davis seemed to be loosening. It wasn’t that much of a surprise when he let it be known through his agent that he would not be accepting the five-year, $239.5 million super max extension when offered.

That was the beginning of what will be a very uncomfortable end to the Anthony Davis era.

From leaked information to a surreal press conference to wars between fan bases on social media, the saga surrounding Davis and his next home has become a whirlwind of misinformation and high emotions.

Now, with less than a week to go before the NBA’s trade deadline, the spotlight will only get brighter.

In the background, the games go on.

The Pelicans have begun the process of scrubbing the greatest player in the franchise’s brief history from its marketing and advertising, along with the transition of Jrue Holiday from erstwhile sidekick to the star of the show.

Whatever attributes that fans and the media have ascribed to Davis over the years will now be projected onto Holiday, as we try to distance ourselves from the painful truth of being scorned by a superstar still yet to reach his prime. Jrue will become our avatar for loyalty as the player who “wants to be here.”

That would be unfair. Unfair to Holiday, unfair to Davis and unfair to the thing that AD is leaving New Orleans to pursue – his legacy.

New Orleans won’t get another Anthony Davis. Seven-footers who can run like a deer, leap tall buildings in a single bound and score from anywhere on the court just don’t grow on trees. That knowledge is the source of much of the pain.

I firmly believe that AD wanted to make it work in New Orleans, even as voices around him told him that it never would.
He didn’t bring a championship to New Orleans, but he did bring hope to a city and a franchise that needed both in the wake of the disastrous final days of George Shinn’s ownership and the trade of Chris Paul.

For a moment, that was enough. Yet with every year that passed without a deep playoff run, that hope turned into expectation and ultimately disappointment.

Plenty of other writers have done a fantastic job of laying out the mistakes that Davis and his representatives have made in attempting to orchestrate and manipulate this entire process, so I won’t rehash them here.

The failures of the organization are well-chronicled as well, so no need to recap that either.

My final thought on the entire situation, in the non-basketball sense, is that there is one thing that Davis is finally realizing, something that we should have realized as well.

We asked him to be Atlas, to carry the Pelicans on his shoulders, and to do it with ease. But AD isn’t built that way. That isn’t his fault. Unfortunately, if we had all figured that out sooner, maybe a better structure could have been built around him. Maybe we wouldn’t be preparing for the third major rebuild of the franchise since it arrived 18 years ago.

But it’s too late for maybes. There is no turning back. Anthony Davis is leaving.

They say “if things didn’t end badly, they wouldn’t end.” That may be true today in this circumstance, but it doesn’t have to be so tomorrow.

New Orleans is strong. It bounces back. Now we ask that the city’s basketball team does the same.

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David Grubb

Featured Columnist

David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…

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