Pelicans’ Anthony Davis keeps getting better

Written By BY MARK POTASH Posted: 03/17/2014, 11:43am
Array New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots over Brooklyn Nets power forward Mason Plumlee (1) in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 93-81. ( AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill)

NEW ORLEANS — Pelicans big man Anthony Davis chuckles when he thinks about all the shots he couldn’t even get off before he grew from 6-3 to 6-10 between his junior and senior seasons at Perspectives-MSA on the South Side. And how much that all changed so quickly.

‘‘Finishing around the basket, rebounding, blocking shots, scoring — growing seven inches made everything a lot easier,’’ Davis said.

But the biggest gift of all was the timing. A guard most of his life, Davis had to work for everything he got. While obviously a skilled player, it’s that work ethic and those guard skills that continue to propel Davis to new heights.

Davis’ amazing journey from dime-a-dozen Public League guard to NBA rising star reaches another high point this weekend at the All-Star Game. Arguably the biggest snub when the Western Conference reserves were announced, Davis was an easy choice to replace injured Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

After an impressive rookie year as the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft (13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game), Davis has made significant improvement without growing an inch. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and an NBA-best 3.1 blocks.

‘‘It’s all hard work and dedication,’’ Davis said. ‘‘I stayed in the gym last summer trying to get better. I’m going to do the same thing this summer. I have a lot to work on. To be selected to the All-Star Game and the numbers I’m putting up is amazing. But I know I have a lot of work to do. This is just a starting point.’’

With his unique athletic ability and versatility, Davis has plenty of room for growth as he expands his game.

‘‘When he really figures out the game, he’s going to be a problem in this league,’’ All-Star teammate Kevin Love of the Timberwolves said. ‘‘He understands the game. He has a soft touch. He keeps moving farther and farther from the basket as his skill set grows. He’s a guy who plays inside-out. But if he’s going to be able to step out and hit those [perimeter] shots, he’s going to be very, very tough for many, many years.’’

Davis has made a good impression in the NBA on multiple levels.

‘‘I think AD’s an unbelievable talent,’’ Bulls center Joakim Noah said. ‘‘Very deserving [All-Star]. And a good kid, too, from what I hear. He’s a hell of a competitor. The sky’s the limit for him.’’

After making so much progress so quickly, Davis already is trying to stay a step ahead of the league.

‘‘When you start becoming a better player, guys are going to throw different looks at you defensively. I have to be ready for everything,’’ Davis said. ‘‘Certain things, I’ve got to change or add to my game that counter the [adjustments] the defense is throwing at me.’’

The last player his age (he’s 20) to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks was Shaquille O’Neal with the Magic in 1992-93.

‘‘That’s amazing, but the season’s not over,’’ Davis said. ‘‘I’ve got to make sure I keep playing, keep trying to get wins for my team.’’

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