The Pelicans started 4-0 by following the same formula each game: Outscore their opponent with Anthony Davis on the court and get outscored when he sat.
Then, Davis got hurt and hasn’t played quite as well. He has missed three of five games, all losses, and New Orleans got outscored with him on the court in both games he played.
For the season, the Pelicans are outscoring opponents by 12.7 points per 100 possessions with Davis on the floor and getting outscored by 14.8 points per 100 possessions with him off. That 27.5-point difference in net rating is one of the highest in the NBA.
Here are the highest net-rating differences, with a player off to on (minimum: 50 minutes):
Davis, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
“Of course, I know that in order to win games, a lot of pressure is going to be on me,” Davis told Yahoo Sports while sitting at his locker stall Wednesday night. “If we lose, it’s on me. If we win, they give my team the credit and I’m fine with that.
“A perfect example [was against the Warriors]. I don’t have a good game and we lose. So, I got to play almost perfect every night to give us a chance to win. But my teammates do a great job. Even the games I didn’t play, those guys have been battling night in and night out to get victories. … I don’t try to put too much pressure on myself, but I know it’s there.”
Davis doesn’t sound as if he’s complaining about his teammates. He sounds focused inward, putting more on his own shoulders.
But, now, his 2020 free agency is approaching. He has high expectations, and they’re not met by a 4-5 start with a couple underwhelming individual games. Though injury offers an explanation, the Pelicans must show they can do more when Davis doesn’t play heroically.
There are people in Boston and the Bay Area eager to tell him: This is no way to live. Feeling as though you must carry your team is stressful. It helps to have a better supporting cast.
Maybe Davis wants that challenge, anyway. For all the ease of having better teammates, overcoming the odds to lift your original team to a championship is fulfilling. Kevin Durant will never get that gratification.
But losing grows tiresome. Even if Davis intends this comments to be self-motivating, they could be planting the seeds for his eventual exit when he assesses his situation outside the midst of the season.