NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis sounds rather pleased that the New Orleans Pelicans have done very little tweaking to their roster since their first-round exit from last season's playoffs.
It was that promise of roster stability, combined with the introduction of a new, fun-loving coach with an up-tempo scheme, which made him eager to commit long-term to New Orleans.
"I just felt comfortable here. I like the team. I like the direction that we're heading in. I like the guys who are playing by my side," Davis said Monday. "I have a lot of trust in our organization and what they're doing."
When the new NBA year began July 1 at midnight Eastern time, Davis was already at dinner with Pelicans general manager Dell Demps and new coach Alvin Gentry, and immediately agreed to a five-year extension. The new contract begins in the 2016-17 season and is worth around $145 million. On Monday, Davis joined a conference call, his first lengthy public comments since previous Pelicans coach Monty Williams was fired in May.
Davis, a two-time All-Star at age 22, said he maintains a special connection with Williams, but took the coaching change in stride.
"We really did a lot together from my rookie year, the second year going to the World Cup, winning a gold medal (at the London Olympics the summer before Davis' rookie season). So we've been through a lot. He helped me through a lot, told me a lot. But when it happened he definitely called me and said, 'Don't worry about me. I'm going to be fine. You go out there and be great,'" Davis recalled. "That shows what type of guy he is. Like, he never talks bad or down on the organization."
Now Davis is eager to see how Gentry's coaching philosophy will mesh with the Pelicans' talent. Davis was a high-school-age NBA fan when Gentry coached the Phoenix Suns to the 2010 Western Conference finals with a fast-paced, high-scoring offense featuring guard Steve Nash and power forward Amare Stoudemire. The Pelicans' power forward remembers that squad fondly and also has been impressed by the influence Gentry, as a top offensive assistant, has had more recently on recent Western Conference contenders such as the Los Angeles Clippers and defending champion Golden State Warriors.
"I definitely love his playing style," Davis said. "My teammates, they have a lot of confidence in coach Gentry. I think that's why everybody's coming back.
"In order for us to be that contender that we want to be, we have to have a lot of chemistry, which we have from the past few years," Davis added. "So it's good that everybody's going to come back and we're going to be able to have that chemistry ready for coach's new system."
Davis said the Pelicans' current roster still has a lot of upside because core players are young and some key players such as Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson are still working their way back to better health from injuries in the past couple seasons.
"We know that guys were hurt and we could be way better than we were last year, and that's the scary thing about our team," Davis said.
The Pelicans last season qualified for the playoffs for the first time in Davis' first three years as a pro and lost to the Warriors in a sweep. But Gentry told Davis that he was nonetheless impressed with the Pelicans' talent and had a plan to get the most out it.
"He stated several times he loved our team and was going to try to get everybody back," Davis said. "That's the first thing that he said and I couldn't agree more."
It also meant a lot to Davis to see Gentry look into a TV camera during the Warriors' locker room celebration immediately after Golden State had won the title, saying, "A.D., we're going to be right back here!"
"That's the biggest thing that really got me excited because he wasn't just saying that to say it. He really believes that," Davis said. "Saying it after he just won was another thing, you know? So you're thinking about (how) the Pelicans are trying to win next year when you could be enjoying your time with Golden State."