HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Hornets power forward Anthony Davis left Las Vegas with more than just a confidence booster that every rookie is searching for in Sin City this time of year.
He left with a permanent spot on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team, a position that opened up after Blake Griffin was diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Davis looked good in his first fill-in duty, playing an energetic 10 minutes in the fourth quarter of the U.S. Team’s 113-59 blowout win over the Dominican Republic Thursday night at UNLV.
Davis also left town with the complete support of his new teammates as they make their way through training camp and on to London for the Olympics. They were in his ear non-stop the first three quarters of Thursday’s game, before it became clear if Davis would even play or not, making sure he was tuned into the action and understanding what he’d have to do when he hit the floor.
Carmelo Anthony was particularly vocal, doing his best to calm the rookie’s nerves.
“I just told him to go out there and just relax,” Anthony said. “He was looking forward to playing summer league. I told him, ‘This is way better than summer league.’ I told him to go out there, relax, have some fun and don’t think about it too much.”
Davis will have a hard time thinking about anything but the opportunity in front of him. Monday’s exhibition game against Brazil is another chance to Davis to show just how well he’ll blend in with the big boys. His nerves were shot Thursday night, but in a good way.
“If you love this game, you’re going to be nervous,” he said. “But when you step on the floor just go out there and have fun. If you love this game like we all say we love it, you just go out there and play ball.”
While his Draft classmates are toiling in the Las Vegas Summer League, Davis will be at rookie finishing school under the watchful eye of U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, Anthony and the rest of the greatest compilation of NBA players wearing the same uniform this summer.
“I told him he doesn’t get a summer league,” Chris Paul said. “He’s such a great kid and we’re having fun with him, but at the same time I told him ‘go out there and play hard and show everybody that you belong and should be here, and that you’re not just here because you’re the No. 1 pick.’ We all watched him play in college, so we know what he’s capable of. He has a lot to learn, but what better team to be on to learn those things than this one.”
LeBron James said he’s seen more than enough from Davis already to know that his slender frame and rookie status should be ignored when assessing his talents and his potential contributions to this team.
“He can play some good minutes for us,” James said. “He’s long and athletic and he knows how to play the game. We look forward to seeing him continue to grow and this is a really good opportunity for him.”
Davis said he’ll bring the same thing this to team that he brought during his championship season at Kentucky and during his first 10 minutes of action Thursday night.
“Rebounding, blocking shots, run the floor, transition buckets,” Davis said when asked what he’d pack with him for an Olympic summer. “Nothing more than what you saw tonight and nothing less.”