Being part of the USA Olympic team is huge for New Orleans rookie Anthony Davis for all the obvious reasons. Just being around basketball brilliance in that locker room is bound to rub off on the top overall draft choice.
Outside of basketball reasons, Davis’ inclusion with Team USA also shows the measure of the man in the eyes of Hornets coach Monty Williams.
“The thing I love about Anthony was he was a bit hesitant because it was overwhelming: No 1 pick, a lot of expectations and then somebody wanted him to play on the Olympic team,” Williams told FOXSportsSouthwest.com. “He had some hesitation, but he didn’t give in to it. Most young guys do. A lot of these guys around the league could be playing on the Olympic team and they don’t want to play.
“Here’s a kid who’s overcoming his fear to play on the Olympic team. To me those kinds of things should be applauded.”
Williams understandably didn’t point which guys don’t want to suit up for Team USA. It would be foolish for an NBA coach to publicly call out other players for not wanting to represent their country.
Andrew Bynum is the most noticeable absentee among American big men, though the Los Angeles Lakers center decided a summer off for his knees was more important than London. That opened the door for Davis to team with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the rest of the gold medal favorites.
Williams called Davis “freaky talented,” but the NBA is littered with athletic specimens. What can set the former Kentucky Wildcat apart is work ethic and study, and Williams has called in a few favors to help Davis survive.
The Hornets coach has enlisted the help of New Orleans’ previous franchise player, Chris Paul, and Nate McMillan to take Davis under their wings. Paul is likely Team USA’s starting point guard. Williams worked under USA Basketball assistant coach McMillan in Portland.
Having those two watching out for Davis, along with the Olympic experience, more than makes up for the power forward-center not being on New Orleans’ NBA Summer League team.
“Even though he’s not here, I couldn’t ask for a better spot for him to be because I know Nate and Chris will help him,” Williams said. “We don’t have our hands on him right now, but he’s going to come back more confident than he ever could have playing in this for a week. There’s no question about it. When you’re around that kind of greatness and athletic atmosphere, you have to come back with a level of confidence that you can’t get anywhere else.”
And of course there is Mike Krzyzewski calling the shots.
“I’m telling (Davis) things all the time in you have to do this, this and this,” Williams said. “Now he’s going to see it. Coach K is an unbelievable leader and coach. He’s forgotten more than I’ll know, so this is the best of both worlds in basketball and atmosphere.”
Davis’ presence on the team was needed with big men such as Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge unable to play due to injury. Davis hasn’t played much so far and probably won’t once the Olympics begin this weekend.
Team USA held on for an 86-80 win Sunday over finishes its exhibition slate Tuesday against Spain. While the Americans haven’t exactly rolled foes Dream Team style in tune-ups heading into London, Williams expects Davis to arrive at training camp with gold around his neck.
“These people talk about the world catching up to us, we’ve got four or five of the best players in the world who are hurt and can’t even play and everybody thinks they’re catching up to us,” Williams scoffed. “It’s a joke.
“And the beauty of the team is you can put Durant at the 4, LeBron at the 4, and you can even play those guys at the 5 depending on the team. Tyson Chandler is more than capable of playing that spot at a high level. Anthony could get some time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was spot minutes at best.”
And those limited minutes are OK. It’s the time spent with USA Basketball that’s priceless.