NEW ORLEANS — It’s easy to project greatness onto someone before they’ve earned it.
It’s easy to talk about building a franchise around a player who is still not old enough to drink, still not even through his freshman year of college.
But it’s when the talk turns to truth, when the fantasy turns to reality, that the truly great and truly special happen.
Hope met actuality in the New Orleans Arena Friday night.
Anthony Davis, the one they call The Brow, might just make soothsayers out of all of us.
Greg Oden he is not.
In New Orleans’ 96-85 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Davis went for 32 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
He swatted Pau Gasol, ran the floor and finished with a layup.
He caught an outlet pass and soared down the lane, slamming the ball through the rim with one hand.
He stood 15-feet out, deftly sinking jumpers 6-foot-10 players aren’t supposed to hit easily.
He is, simply put, a game-changer, someone an All-Star looks at wide-eyed and a savvy veteran looks at longingly.
“I mean, he’s the franchise,” said guard Jrue Holiday, the All-Star. “He’s that guy. He’s the go-to guy and everybody here knows it. We want him to be that guy. It’s awesome to see. We have the utmost confidence in him as a team, as a coaching staff and all that.”
“It’s tough because you think somebody that can run that well can’t defend or they don’t want to defend,” said Jason Smith, the savvy veteran. “He wants to defend. He wants to get that blocked shot, spark the transition, get running. He gets a blocked shot and then goes and then he goes and gets a dunk, that’s really hard as a big.”
Pelicans coach Monty Williams has said time and again that Davis has barely scratched the surface of what he can do.
Friday night wasn’t a scratch. It was a full blown gash.
With New Orleans leading 84-81, Davis hit a 16-foot step-back jumper. A minute later, he blocked Gasol. Shortly thereafter, he completed a possession with an emphatic slam.
That was followed by another block of Gasol. He sprinted down the floor and finished with a fast-break layup.
Few other men of his size can take over a game in such a manner, especially one who is only in his second season.
“He’s a special player because he’s athletic,” Gasol said. “He’s able to block a shot on one end and sprint to the other end and get a layup or get an and-one. So you really have to keep up with him because he creates a threat to you that’s a little different than other players. ... He’s got a good shooting touch.
“He’s got a complete package for his second year in the league. It’s pretty impressive.”
That’s high praise coming from another savvy veteran.
It seems it’s just another affirmation that projections are becoming real. For once, everyone looks like they’re right.
And the Pelicans, for once, are the beneficiary.