LeBron James once turned the NBA on its head by taking his talents to South Beach. When he played his first game back in Cleveland, he wasn’t merely playing for a former team, but in front of a hometown crowd that had never done anything but revered him previously. Now, with Anthony Davis going back to New Orleans for the first time, James is using that experience to help his superstar teammate get through everything that comes with Wednesday night’s game against the Pelicans.
James was asked after Monday morning’s shootaround by Bill Oram of The Athletic whether he’d spoken to Davis about the experience of playing against a now hostile crowd. James said he had, and shared some of the advice he had for his superstar teammate. For James, it all starts with his experience:
“I just remember it was just a weird feeling. It was an eerie feeling for me. Obviously, our situation can be a little different, but we can both relate to being with a franchise for seven years, and being the franchise player and trying to take a franchise to a place where it hadn’t been before, and being kids when we got there to being men when we left. It’s our job as teammates to try and make (Davis) feel as comfortable as possible once we get to that game, and make him feel like we’re going through it just as much as he’s going through it.”
So, what James think Davis is in store for?
“I know what it’s like to go into a situation that you were calling home for seven years. And obviously I grew up 35 minutes outside of the (city) where I played my first seven years, so that had a little bit of more emotion to it, but still, he was a kid when he got there and became a man along that seven-year journey.
“It’s just going to be a different situation for him personally. I gave him some pointers (about) when I went back for the first time. What he can prepare for, how he can handle it, and at the end of the day once you step on the floor that’s kind of like the best time. Out of all the things that’s going on, out of all the hoopla that’s going to be going on with that particular game and him coming back, the greatest thing is when you finally get on the floor and that ball tips up. Because there is nothing but strictly basketball, and everything else just doesn’t matter at that point.”
Basketball operating as an escape is by no means a new concept, regardless of the context involved. With most players, they are better at basketball than just about anything else, and the opportunity to use their skills to silence all the outside noise (if possible) is the kind of thing most guys would jump at.
In this case, Davis is going to get booed. Whatever good he brought that organization won’t matter. What will be stuck in the crowd’s head will be not just the trade demand, but the awkward way Davis handled that situation. In all likelihood, Davis will be walking in on a pretty hostile crowd. But the best way to shut them up is with his play, and it sounds like James has made him more than aware of that.