NEW ORLEANS — Two days before the NBA’s annual on-court meeting of the league’s best players, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks fielded a question about Pelicans sophomore Anthony Davis.
But instead of discussing the former Naismith College Player of the Year, the same one with a national championship ring and a Final Four MVP honor, Brooks talked about his two brilliant young stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
It wasn’t a slight.
Instead, it was a nod to what he believes Davis can become.
“The things that Kevin and Russell have done for our team have taken years and a lot of good experience together, a lot of tough experiences together,” Brooks said. “I think as you go through that, you get better. You grow a stronger bond with your guys and with each other.”
Between injuries to teammates, health problems of his own in his first year and much of his professional career coming at under-.500, New Orleans’ super soph has “tough experiences” down pat.
It’s the good experiences that he’s still waiting on.
If he has anything to do with that – and he undoubtedly does – they’ll be here sooner than later.
Not even 21, Davis has proven that he’s voracious in his thirst for basketball education.
Already he has spent months learning from this country’s best during the 2012 Olympic gold medal run.
Now he’s in his first All-Star Game in just his second season. Alternate or not, he was as deserving as anyone else.
Instead of spending the entire weekend drinking in the fun, puffing his chest out and welcoming everyone to his town, he’s busy working.
“Here it’s just a couple of days,” Davis said of the difference between this weekend and the Olympics. “Not even that. A couple of hours. We’re all trying to do something. Really just have the All-Star Game to chat with them. I’m definitely going to try to pick their brains and see how they’ve become better.”
Not that he’s staying away from having fun.
Friday night, in the Rising Stars game, he lit up the Arena with alley-oops, blocks and the same hustle that has endeared him to home fans in just a season and a half.
He’s already the undisputed on-court leader for the Pelicans. He has been the one constant this season, averaging better than 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game.
Should he finish the season with those averages, he’d be the first player since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 1999-2000.
Yet, it’s what’s going on in his mind that’s every bit as impressive and every bit the reason why he has gained the respect of not just his teammates, but players around the NBA.
“I’m not satisfied with anything,” Davis said. “I just want to work on my overall game and take it to the next level.”
That gets back to Brooks, who knows what it takes for young players to blossom into great players.
“From a distance he seems like a great kid,” Brooks said. “I can’t wait to get to know him the next couple of days. Talking to Monty (Williams), he says nothing but great things about his work ethic, about his commitment to leading his team.”
Tonight’s just the beginning for Davis. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes what Brooks, an opposing coach, thinks he can be.
And that should worry everyone else in the NBA.