Anthony Davis spent the first seven years of his career in New Orleans after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft.
But for the firs time, Davis will be returning to the arena he once called home as the enemy on Wednesday, as the NBA-leading Los Angeles Lakers (14-2) clash with the 6-11 Pelicans.
Davis has admitted it’s a game he has circled on his calendar.
“It’s getting closer and closer,” Davis told reporters on Saturday. “It’s hard not to think about it. You just wait for it to happen. It’s going to be different, obviously.”
Davis had a unique ending to his tenure in New Orleans. He told the team that he would become a free agent in 2020, but led to a trade sweepstakes that eventually ended with nothing happening before the deadline. The Lakers were finally able to make a deal in the offseason for a massive package that included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks.
“I’m excited to play, just [like] I was excited to play that first game against Minnesota last year, but I think you got to embrace it,” Davis said. “I know what the reaction’s going to be. I try to look at all the guys who went and had something like that, but it’s unique, and I’m excited to go there and play for the first time with an opposing team, so it’s going to be fun.”
Davis knows the former Lakers in the trade, most notably Ingram — who’s averaging career-highs of 26.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game — will be extra-amped for the matchup as well.
“I mean, it’s going to be me against the Pelicans and then the three guys, if they play, against the Lakers, so it’s going to be a great battle. Those guys are going to try to take our heads off just to prove a point, and I don’t want to say I want to take their heads off. I just want to win it.”
Rajon Rondo: Pelicans Are ‘Step-Kids’ of New Orleans
Another Laker making his New Orleans return is guard Rajon Rondo, who played one season with the Pelicans before heading to the Lakers as a free agent.
Rondo — who played the majority of his career in Boston — didn’t seem to enjoy the experience too much.
“We were the step-kids,” Rondo said of playing for the Pelicans. “It’s just what it is. The Saints are who they are. They earned it. But sometimes the market is just like that.”
Rondo didn’t seem surprised that Davis was ready for an exit for the Big Easy, with the team only making the playoffs twice in his tenure.
“[The Pelicans] just didn’t do what they needed to do to keep him,” Rondo said. “… You don’t want to let your career pass you by. He’s eight, nine years in now. He wants to contend for a title, a championship. His legacy’s on the line. I think he gave the city all he had. There was nothing else to give.”
Next up: Lakers Take on Struggling Spurs
Before heading to New Orleans, the Lakers have a stop scheduled in San Antonio to take on the Spurs. The Spurs had lost eight in a row before beating the Knicks their last time out.
The Lakers are five-point favorites for the game, with a total of 223.