Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Knicks Anthony, Chandler Helped Mentor No. 1 Pick Anthony Davis
NEW YORK — Anthony Davis lost only two games all season last year at Kentucky en route to winning an NCAA championship and National Player of the Year honors.
During his rookie season with the New Orleans Hornets, the No. 1 draft pick and his teammates have already lost 26 games.
“It doesn’t matter [how I played], we lost,” Davis said after putting up 13 points and eight rebounds in the Hornets’ 100-87 loss to the Knicks Sunday at Madison Square Garden. “So them stats doesn’t even matter.”
For the season, Davis is averaging 13.2 points and 7.8 rebounds for a Hornets team that is 11-26.
Still, Hornets coach Monty Williams says Davis is a hard and committed worker and the franchise expects him to lead the team into a new and brighter future.
“Like most young guys, he’s just trying to find his way on certain nights,” Williams told reporters before the game. “And then some nights, he looks like he’s the best player on the floor.”
Said the 6-foot-10 Davis: “He told me that everyone would try to come after me every time we play, and I gotta take that personally. Go out there and play ball. Play with a lot of energy every possession.”
Davis dominated the college game as arguably the best shot-blocker since Bill Russell, but finds it harder to do so against elite NBA athletes.
“Yeah, especially when you can’t sit in the paint with the defensive 3-second rule, so you gotta move out the paint,” he said. “Guys see that, so guys are watching. You get to 2.9, as soon as you step out, they attack…But there’s different ways where you can impact the game instead of just blocking shots. Running the floor, setting screens, talking, so there’s different ways to impact the game.”
Davis played with Knicks stars Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler on the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team last summer and said he learned from being around them, as well as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.
“Them guy just work hard,” Anthony said. “Both of them [Anthony and Chandler] are outstanding players. Tyson really took me under his wing and I hung out with him a lot. He told me some things, showed me some things. Melo is a great mentor for me as well. Loves the game, and both them can hoop so it was great being with them guys.”
Said Anthony: “Everybody knows what he can do on the basketball court. It is a matter of sticking with it. It is a long season. As long as you stay the course and that was my advice to him.”
Chandler said he worked with Davis on “just really trying to understand the game mentally. Everything is going to be coming at him 100 miles an hour as a rookie. He has take his time, develop and try to get better year by year.”
While Davis’s scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking will evolve in the NBA, one thing that won’t change is his famous unibrow, which caused him to trademark the phrases “Fear the Brow” and “Raise the Brow.”
Teammate Austin Rivers joked before the game that he considered shaving Davis’s unibrow while he slept, but thought better of it.
“That unibrow is not just any unibrow,” Rivers said. “His headphones have a unibrow on it; his sneakers have a brow. I mean, T-shirts, ‘Fear the Brow.’ People take that seriously in New Orleans.”
Rivers added: “I think that’s what makes him so good, the unibrow.”
While Davis and former Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a Somerdale, N.J., native, have excelled in the NBA, three of their former Kentucky teammates — Darius Miller of the Hornets, Terrence Jones of the Rockets and Doron Lamb of the Bucks — are in the D-League.
All told, 25 players from the 2012 NBA Draft class have spent time in the D-League.
“It’s not frustrating, it just gives them an opportunity to work on their game,” Davis said. “Both of them [Jones and Miller] are doing great jobs down there and putting up numbers to get back into the league, so they just gotta take it as a learning opportunity and keep going down there and playing ball. And when they come back up here, apply what they did in the D-League to up here and go out and play ball.”
Davis said he’s also kept tabs on Kentucky and stays in touch with head coach John Calipari, whose club is 10-5, 1-1 in the SEC.
“Kentucky’s doing well, losing a couple games,” Davis said. “But they’re doing fine. They’re a young team like we were. Guys are going to come after them just because of what happened last year. So once they realize that they’ll be fine.”
The 6-10 Nerlens Noel has been projected as a lottery pick in this year’s draft, and though it’s not fair to compare him to Davis, Davis likes Noel’s game.
“He blocks shots well, he runs the floor, he’s very athletic,” Davis said. “He’s a great player.”
And Davis is well on his way to being one, too.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.