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Pelicans’ Anthony Davis to show off New Orleans to fellow stars

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Anthony Davis is tiring of the narrative that his pro basketball career would be better served if he played somewhere other than New Orleans.

During All-Star weekend, the face of the Pelicans franchise will have a chance to exhibit why building a winner in the Big Easy matters to him. And if his enthusiasm for his adopted hometown proves contagious among some of the elite talent gathering in the NBA’s Gulf South outpost, all the better for the “Brow.”

“I was definitely excited for All-Star to come to New Orleans again; New Orleans is a fun place,” said Davis, who was a second-year pro and first-time All-Star when the NBA’s annual marquee event last came to the city in 2014. “It will be a good chance for other players to experience our city, the culture in New Orleans with Mardi Gras and all, and see why we feel New Orleans is one the best places to play basketball as far as the fan base that we have and the culture of the city and everything like that.”

The All-Star game wasn’t supposed to return to New Orleans quite this quickly, but the league pulled the game Charlotte earlier this year because of a North Carolina state law that limits protections of LGBT people.

But this All-Star weekend will be different for Davis than his first, when he was still getting comfortable with pro basketball and life in New Orleans. Davis, nicknamed “the Unibrow” since his college days at Kentucky, was a Western Conference reserve in 2014. Now he’s among the most popular players in the world and an All-Star starter boasting gaudy statistics of nearly 28 points and 12 rebounds per game – not to mention season highs of 50 points, 22 rebounds and six blocks.

What Davis needs now is more help. The Pelicans missed the playoffs in three of his first four pro seasons, and their postseason prospects are in doubt again. Entering Wednesday night’s action, New Orleans was 12 games below .500 and 3 + games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

While Davis doesn’t expect to spend the whole weekend recruiting, he acknowledged that playing host to the NBA’s elite gives him an opportunity to help them envision what it might be like if, via a trade or free agency, they wound up joining him.

“There definitely is a time for that,” Davis said. “The main focus is for everybody to just go out there and have fun.”

Davis was pleased that this year’s All-Star festivities coincide with Mardi Gras. Normally, the NBA schedule takes the Pelicans away from New Orleans during most of pre-Lenten Carnival, which draws millions of tourists to New Orleans for rollicking festivities centered on parades and balls.

“I’m excited to actually be in town,” Davis said.

Then there’s the food. Davis expects to double as a restaurant guide this week. Growing up in Chicago, Davis was all about pizza, which he still eats when he goes home. But in New Orleans, he’s refined his palette, sampling the city’s renowned creole cuisine and fresh Gulf seafood.

“The food is amazing. The little spice it has to it is amazing. The gumbo is amazing,” Davis said. “When you go to other cities and they have New Orleans gumbo or New Orleans-style food or whatever, it tastes nothing like it. I’ve been around the city and got a chance to experience all types of food.

“I actually eat seafood now.”

Davis’ strengthening ties to New Orleans go well beyond fun and flavor. He arrived in the first decade after Hurricane Katrina, an epic disaster from which rebuilding is not entirely complete. Some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods needed help before the storm and even more so afterward, and Davis has immersed himself charitable and community endeavors. His AD’s Flight Academy features events with kids such as basketball camps, bowling and movie nights.

“He keeps himself involved in the community whether that’s helping kids or building up the city. He truly cares,” said Pelicans forward Terrence Jones, who won a NCAA national title with Davis at Kentucky in 2012 and rejoined his college teammate in the NBA this season.

“People have so much joy when they see him at any events we have for the Pelicans,” Jones said. “He’s excited to be able to represent the city.”

Pelicans general manager Dell Demps got a sense of Davis’ commitment to New Orleans when the star big man seized the earliest possible opportunity to sign a five-year, $127 million extension that runs through 2020-21.

Said Demps: “Although Anthony’s from Chicago, he treats New Orleans like it’s his home.”

He wouldn’t mind if one or two of his fellow all-stars did, too.

Orlando Magic will no longer host summer league

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic has decided to end their annual summer league.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said Sunday the trend of NBA teams playing in the Las Vegas Summer League led to the decision end Orlando Pro Summer League. Orlando’s Summer League, which showcased rookies and young players, began in 2002.

Las Vegas will host all 30 teams for the summer league beginning in the summer of 2018. The Orlando Pro Summer League began as a 10-team tournament but there were just eight participating teams this past summer.

The summer league in Orlando, which is played in the Magic’s practice gym, was the only one of three summer leagues that did not allow fans to come in to watch.

Kevin Durant misses game vs. Nets with sprained ankle, status vs. Thunder in doubt

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Not that the Warriors needed him with Stephen Curry going off again, but Golden State was without Kevin Durant on Sunday in Brooklyn due to a sprained ankle.

Durant is officially day-to-day, but that brings up the question of whether he will be ready to go Wednesday night when the Warriors travel to Oklahoma City to take on his former team. Chris Haynes of ESPN asked Durant about it.

While some blowhards will talk about him dodging the Thunder, the Warriors course here is obvious — they do not want to rush him back for any game in November. Even one against Russell Westbrook. Ankles with stretched ligaments are easy to re-injure if not fully healed, and the Warriors don’t want this to be chronic and last through more of the season.

Durant is averaging 24.9 points per game, 7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists, and — with all due respect to fellow former MVP Curry — he is the best player on the Warriors. Maybe the best player in the world right now, period. Durant can score at will, and he had become a key part of the Warriors’ fifth-ranked defense blocking 2.2 shots per game (their offense is No. 1 in the league).

Three Things to Know: Aggressive Lonzo Ball is what Lakers need from him

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed while creating Arya Stark memes to mock the iPhoneX.

1) Aggressive Lonzo Ball racks up triple-double, pushes Lakers to win in wild game. This is the Lonzo Ball the Lakers need. This is the Lonzo Ball Lakers’ coach Luke Walton wants to see when he says he needs him to be aggressive.

Ball picked up his second triple double in just more than a week Sunday night against Denver, with 11 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists. He still wasn’t efficient as a shooter — 5-of-13 overall, and a decent but not great finisher going 4-of-6 at the rim and 4-of-8 total in the paint — but he pushed the pace (a very fast 106 possessions) and got teammates involved with a good mix of throw ahead passes and pushing the ball by the dribble up the court. It kept Denver on its heels all night.

Ball put his mark on this game — and that’s what the Lakers need from him. I’m not going to overreact to this positively the same way I was not going to overreact negatively to his rough start — he’s a 19-year-old NBA rookie. It’s a process, one that takes time. After Summer League the hype machine — thanks to his father and a zealous fan base — spun out of control. Summer League is a far cry from the NBA and Ball is a reminder of that, it’s still a big step up. Ball needs to work on his conditioning, his handles, his shot, and his decision making at pace will improve with practice (Sunday was a step in that direction). Just be patient and we’ll see how good a player he develops into.

Ball pushed the Lakers to a 127-109 win (thanks in part to Julius Randle‘s 24 points), but Los Angeles got a lot of help from Denver — specifically coach Mike Malone and leading scorer/playmaker Nikola Jokic getting ejected in the second quarter. Malone was hot, feeling fouls were being committed on Jokic and not being called, and after Kyle Kuzma put an arm in Jokic’s back and pushed him down on a rebound (subtlety, it was a veteran-style move) Malone stormed onto the court during play and got in the path of referee Rodney Mott and challenged him. Mott immediately ejected Malone and then Jokic when he said something.

Malone can get out the checkbook now, he’s going to get a healthy fine for that one.

2) Joel Embiid with the Tweet of the Day (plus some Markelle Fultz news). The Sixers’ big man Joel Embiid wrote maybe the most perfect Tweet on Sunday: He owned up to an ugly come-from-ahead loss to Golden State while still managing to throw shade at the Warriors. Plus he got in a Draymond Green reference.

Embiid is just magic with social media.

The other news out of the Sixers camp Sunday was an update on Markelle Fultz — which the team had leaked the day before would be a positive one. The update: Fultz is progressing but will be out another 2-3 weeks, then he will be re-evaluated. I guess that’s what passes for positive with the Sixers and injury updates.

Also, to the people out there on Twitter throwing dirt on the career of Fultz or calling him a bust — stop it. You are close to what Dean Wormer said about Flounder. We are a month into Fultz’s NBA career, and we have 0.0 percent knowledge of how that career will go. But if you think he can’t come back from an extended layoff and succeed, please look at Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, go talk to Blake Griffin while you’re at it, then get back to me.

3) The Orlando Summer League is no more. This is big news for basketball junkies and hoops nerds: The late June/early July Orlando Summer League that has run for 14 years is no more. The Orlando Magic, which operated the league and ran it before the big NBA Summer League in Vegas, killed it, a story broken by Josh Robbins at the Orlando Sentinel. Eight teams played there last year — Orlando, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Indiana, Miami, New York, and Oklahoma City — but the NBA League Office wants all teams playing in Las Vegas. That is now closer to reality. Also, the Magic didn’t make any money off the tournament, so that limited incentive to keep it.

Some coaches preferred Orlando — Stan Van Gundy lamented the demise of the Orlando league (in part because he lives in the city in the off-season and throws a party for the coaches at his house). The Vegas Summer League has big crowds and all the distractions of Las Vegas, while the Orlando league was not open to the public (although games were shown on NBA TV) and that led to more focused development. Some coaches and GMs preferred that. (The flip side of that argument: I’ve been told by team executives they like the distractions in Vegas, because it shows them which players are focused on the game, and which ones are easily pulled off track.)

There still is the Rocky Mountain Review that the Utah Jazz relaunched a couple of years ago, which draws a handful of teams. But the NBA is finding Summer League a money-making success and wants its teams concentrated there in July.

Wild night in L.A.: Lonzo Ball has triple-double; Nuggets coach, Nikola Jokic ejected

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lonzo Ball had his second career triple-double and Julius Randle scored 24 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 127-109 victory over the short-handed Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.

Ball had 11 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the 20-year-old rookie’s first triple-double in front of his hometown fans at Staples Center.

Brook Lopez scored 21 points and Jordan Clarkson added 18 for the Lakers, who surged to a 24-point lead in the first half and easily won for just the second time in seven games.

Denver coach Mike Malone and top scorer Nikola Jokic were ejected in the second quarter after Malone stepped onto the court during play to argue a no-call on a play by Jokic around the basket. Malone furiously confronted referee Rodney Mott, who swiftly ejected the coach and his best player when Jokic joined in the argument.

Forward Paul Millsap also left with a sprained left wrist in the second quarter of a miserable night at Staples Center for the Nuggets, who lost for just the second time in six games.

Ball and Magic Johnson are the only Lakers with multiple triple-doubles in their rookie seasons. Johnson had seven, and his new point guard has two in his first 17 games.

Randle added seven points and five assists in a stellar game off the bench.