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As NBA contract moratorium ends, Pelicans officially ink Davis, Asik, Ajinca, Cunningham

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METAIRIE, Louisiana — New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis and three of his teammates have formally signed contracts to which they had verbally agreed to during the first week of the NBA's free agency period.

The league year began with an eight-day moratorium on signing new contracts, but allowed clubs to negotiate non-binding, verbal agreements which could not become official until Thursday.

Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said contracts with Davis, along with centers Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, and forward Dante Cunningham, are now signed.

Davis has agreed to a five-year extension, beginning in 2016, worth about $145 million. Asik signed a five-year, $58 million free-agent deal that begins this season. Ajinca signed for $20.2 million over four years and Cunningham for $9 million over three years.

"Words cannot describe the excitement of the New Orleans Pelicans to have Anthony Davis as the cornerstone of our organization," Demps said in a statement released by the club. "Anthony is a great person, a phenomenal player and the ideal representative of his family, the Pelicans and the New Orleans community. ...We are thrilled to have Anthony commit to the Pelicans as we continue to build our team to have sustained success."

The 6-foot-10, Davis, who is still only 22, averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game this season, his third as a pro. He ranked fourth the NBA in average scoring, eighth in rebounding and first in blocks while being named to his second All-Star game.

"I am very excited to continue to play for the Pelicans and remain a proud resident of the City of New Orleans," said Davis, whose contract includes a player option in the final year. "I look forward to many great years together."

Davis, as well as the other three players signed, all helped New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. While the Pelicans were swept by eventual champion Golden State in the opening round, Davis averaged 31.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in the series.

Demps said Asik, Ajinca and Cunningham were all "key contributors on our team last season," and that the team is "happy all three players elected to return."

The 7-foot Asik, of Turkey, started all of the 76 games in which he played last season, averaging 7.3 points and 9.8 rebounds. The 29-year-old big man was acquired in a trade with Houston in 2014. With Asik's contract, the Pelicans will be permitted to exceed the salary cap because of a so-called "Larry Bird" exception that the league created in order to help teams retain their own players. His contract contains a team option in the fifth year.

The 6-8 Cunningham, who is 28, averaged 5.2 points and 3.9 rebounds in 66 games with 27 starts last season.

Ajinca, a 7-footer from France, had his best NBA season while serving primarily as a reserve. The 27-year-old averaged 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds, and his production increased substantially when he received substantial playing time in a game. He recorded five double-doubles and scored in double figures 20 times, including a career-high 24 points in a victory over Miami.

The Pelicans now have all of their prominent regulars from last season under contract except guard Norris Cole, who remains a restricted free agent.

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