A grinning Anthony Davis emerged from the Pelicans’ weight room holding one of his white No. 23 game jerseys and tossed it over the shoulder of guard Jrue Holiday, mumbling, “so you won’t forget about me,” as he walked away.
While Davis made his share of good memories during seven seasons — and six All-Star selections — in New Orleans, the Pelicans will be eager to forget the lame-duck, unceremonious manner in which his tenure with the club ended.
A new era is on the horizon and the Pelicans appear eager to see it begin.
“Really excited,” Holiday asserted when asked to share his thoughts about what has the making of a busy offseason for the Pelicans, who appear to be on the cusp of hiring a new general manager. “Obviously with opportunities in this offseason to resign guys or pickup new guys, to see what happens with the future with upper management, everything’s up in the air.”
Plagued by injuries to key players, the Pelicans were struggling to stay in striking distance of a playoff spot in late January when Davis essentially derailed the season by allowing his representation to publicly request a trade. Davis remains under contract for another season, but the Pelicans may be inclined to deal him before the draft to maximize rebuilding options.
Between the public trade request, for which he was fined $50,000; an obscene gesture toward and fan, for which he was fined $15,000; and his decision to wear a t-shirt to the season finale with the Looney Toons sign off, “That’s all folks,” Davis has taken some blows to his reputation. But he said he has few regrets and maintained that he loved New Orleans, Pelicans fans and his teammates.
“In everything you do, there’s always something to learn,” Davis said, adding that he only wore the Looney Toons t-shirt because it had been laid out for him by a person he declined to name. He said he never considered how wearing it might be perceived, adding, “It doesn’t matter to me.”
The six-time All-Star said he is eager to see whom the Pelicans hire as GM and to meet with that person. Davis also said that if the Pelicans found trade offers unsuitable this season and still had him on the roster when next season began, he’d continue honoring his contract.
“I don’t have any ill will toward anybody,” Davis said. “I can’t be mad if I’m still here next year.”
The Pelicans have interviewed six general manager candidates: Pelicans interim general manager Danny Ferry, as well as former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, Golden State assistant GM Larry Harris, Brooklyn Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, Houston Rockets assistant GM Gersson Rosas and interim Washington president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard
The person they hire will oversee the Davis trade, the next draft and could decide whether to retain coach Alvin Gentry, who has two years left under contract and expressed optimism he’d be given an opportunity to stay.
“I’m going to be confident until they tell me I’m not coming back,” Gentry said. “That’s the only way I know how to approach it.”
Gentry has a regular season record of 145-183 with one playoff appearance last season and one playoff series victory — a sweep of Portland before losing in five games to eventual champion Golden State.
Gentry could make the argument that the deck was stacked against him this season.
Davis, who averaged 25.9 points, 12 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 56 games, made his trade demand with 32 games left in the season and wound up missing 17 of those games, sometimes for rest and at other times was listed as out with back spasms, including for the final seven games.
When he did play, it was rarely for much more than 20 minutes a game.
The Pelicans finished 33-49, which guaranteed they’d finish better than at least six teams. That leaves them with about a 25% chance of jumping up to a top-four selection through the NBA’s draft lottery on May 14.
Trading Davis also could fetch a high draft choice.
The Pelicans will have a number of other pressing roster matters as well. Starting forward Julius Randle and starting point guard Elfrid Payton both will be free agents. Randle is coming off of the best season of his career — averaging 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds. He credited the Pelicans with fostering his development and said he’s open to coming back.
Payton, who is from New Orleans, said playing in his hometown exceeded expectations and that he would like to be back. Payton missed much of the season with injuries, but also put together a historically significant string of five straight triple-doubles this spring.