Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the NBA, an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year finalist last year, and a Pelican. The Pelicans started 4-0 this season, leading the NBA in scoring, but as Davis has battled an elbow injury he suffered against the Nets, the team has faltered and lost four straight.
In a tough Wednesday loss against the Warriors, Davis struggled in 41 minutes. He scored 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting, and the Pelicans lost by 10. After the game, Davis explained his role as the core of the team, and why that's difficult.
"Of course, I know that in order to win games, a lot of pressure is going to be on me," he said after the game, via Yahoo Sports. "If we lose, it's on me. If we win, they give my team the credit and I'm fine with that. A perfect example [on Wednesday] ... I don't have a good game and we lose. So, I got to play almost perfect every night to give us a chance to win. But my teammates do a great job. Even the games I didn't play, those guys have been battling night in and night out to get victories. … I don't try to put too much pressure on myself, but I know it's there."
Davis is right, of course. Even with the Pelicans' improved core, including two-way star Jrue Holiday, sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic and early Sixth Man of the Year candidate Julius Randle, all eyes are on Davis. In a league where we routinely see superstars join up, that only adds to the pressure on Davis. While Holiday emerged onto the scene as an All-Defense First Teamer last season, he still isn't scrutinized to the level of Chris Paul of the Rockets (who joined James Harden via trade last year) or the veritable arsenal the Warriors have.
There's even more attention on Davis right now, because he has a player option that's rapidly approaching in 2020. LeBron James' agency -- there's talk about him joining one of the superstars Rich Paul represents.--
Davis, however, is downplaying the noise and wants people to know that he's playing for the Pelicans now, and that's what matters.
"I got two years to '20-21. I'm here and whatever happens after that happens," Davis said, via ESPN's The Undefeated. "For me, right now it is about being the most dominant player in the league and helping this team win. You hear all the rumors. You hear all the talk. But it's not coming from me. I'm here to be a Pelican, help this team move forward and help this team win a championship."
After a dominant sweep of the Trail Blazers in last year's playoffs, the Pelicans lost in five games against the Warriors. They entered this season with high expectations, looking to be a team that could run opponents out of the gym. However, as we've seen early, Davis needs to be healthy for them to do that. He hasn't played in three of the Pelicans' last four games, and his lone game was against Golden State.
Whether or not the Pelicans are truly better this year remains to be seen, and Davis will be eligible for a super max extension with the Pelicans in 2019. Whether or not he signs that extension could ultimately come down to how the Pelicans play the rest of the season. Eight games in, it's clear a lot of weight will rest Davis. But, for a player who was cited in a lot of MVP talk before the season, that shouldn't come as a surprise.