NEW ORLEANS - The Pelicans are embroiled in a week of two-a-day training camp practices, getting ready for Saturday night's test against the Houston Rockets.
When the team takes the floor, fans are going to notice a different Anthony Davis: Physically, he has added some muscle weight and is up to 220 pounds; Mentally, he's grown as well, thanks to a year of experience in the pros and two go-arounds with Team USA basketball.
Davis says he's ready to step up as a leader and take ownership of this retooled team.
"I'm more comfortable and have a lot more confidence," Davis said. "I'm trying to stay healthy and get ready for this season coming up. I learned a lot. I got better offensively and defensively."
Coach Monty Williams noticed the change as well, but wants Davis to find the balance between developing as a leader and relishing this moment in time.
"He's more confident, but when we say mature, we have to temper that a little bit," Williams said. "I don't expect him to be this wise, cagey veteran. But he has taken some steps from the maturity aspect of the game and personally because now he just knows what to expect. I still want him to enjoy being 20, but on the floor I want him to be 28 and play with that type of maturity and savvy."
So far, Davis is saying all the right things in this first week of training camp, acknowledging the upgraded roster that paves the way for higher expectations in the Pelicans' inaugural season.
"The talent level definitely increased. We have a lot more talent than we had last year, but that doesn't mean anything yet," Davis said. "Now we have to reach our goal, put our egos aside and play together as a team."
With the vast majority of the roster attending voluntary workout sessions for several weeks leading up to training camp, it certainly seems as if everyone is buying in to what the Pels are selling, but the price tag of the new surge in talent means playing time is precious and starting roles are at a premium.
For instance, the Pels plan to use newly acquired swingman Tyreke Evans off the bench, along with returning veterans Jason Smith and Ryan Anderson.
"That was one of the things that we brought up with Tyreke before we signed him," Williams said. "Was he good with coming off the bench? It's never been an issue for him. He said he just wanted to be here. I think the idea of playing with Ryan and Jason in the second unit is probably exciting for him, because it should open up some alleys for him to get to the basket. But it's also something we have to work out in camp, to make sure everybody is on the same page."
Williams says as long as he can make sure players receive significant minutes, he doesn't believe there will be any controversy concerning starting roles versus reserve roles. Evans would ideally play a crucial role in New Orleans' game plan.
"I'd like to get Tyreke in the game for 28 to 30 minutes a game," Williams said. "That would be optimum for us. That would keep him fresh but also keep him on the floor."
The 6' 6'-tall Evans arrived in New Orleans via a sign-and-trade with the Sacramento Kings, signing a four-year, $44 million deal.
"This is a different situation for me," Evans said. "It's better. Just knowing that we've got a group that's willing to be with each other for a long time, I'm looking forward to playing with them."
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