A player who replaces Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference All-Star squad has to be something special. In this case, New Orleans Pelicans forward-center Anthony Davis was the honorary proxy during last Sunday’s All-Star Game in just his second season in the NBA.
With averages of 20.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game midway through the 2013-14 regular season, Davis’ sophomore effort is garnering the attention of another power forward with hefty NBA career credentials—Karl Malone—a two-time Most Valuable Player.
“I see a young man that has just flourished here (in New Orleans),” Malone said to reporters during All-Star Weekend. “He’s embraced it. He’s worked hard. I get to see the Pelicans play a lot, they being on TV and me living in Louisiana.”
Malone, himself, has 14 All-Star Game appearances in his 19 seasons in the NBA—18 of them with the Utah Jazz and one with the Lakers. In addition, he was named MVP of the 1989 and 1993 All-Star games.
With the All-Star Weekend festivities taking place at the New Orleans Arena, Davis was the obvious hometown favorite. He played nine minutes in the All-Star Game and scored 10 points to go with a pair of steals.
The Pelicans have a 23-29 record heading into the second half of the season, which puts them 7 1/2 games behind the eighth and final playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference. Needless to say, New Orleans will have to finish the second half of the season strong in order to push themselves into the playoff picture.
Playoff-bound or not this season, Malone knows that New Orleans has something special in Davis, which can only help their chances for future postseason appearances.
“At first, I hadn’t seen how he played with his teammates,” said Malone. “But now, you can truly build a great team around this young man. I love to see him play and I love the way he keeps his composure and just plays the game.”