Anthony Davis played for Monty Williams for the first three years of his NBA career, during which he went from promising rookie to one of the best players in the league.
Indeed, after averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks as a rookie, Davis has averaged 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 2.2+ blocks per game in three straight seasons.
“Coach means a lot to me,” Davis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “When I first got down here and I was going through everything was a rookie, he was kind of there to support me and try to show me the way from a basketball standpoint on how to get through your rookie year and then take off. He always told me he saw great talent within me.”
And Davis saw great strength in Williams, whose wife, Ingrid, passed away on February 10 due to injuries suffered in a car accident.
Williams, however, is persevering. He delivered the eulogy at his wife’s funeral and forgave the driver who hit her. He even offered prayers for the driver’s family.
“I talked to him (Sunday),” Davis said. “He just told me, ‘You got to use all this anger and this pain that’s bottled up inside you and use it as a tool to go out there and play.’ It’s tough to play with a heavy heart, but me and him both know that Ingrid would definitely want us to move forward and play. That’s what I just tried to do.”
Davis did that and more Sunday, recording 59 points and 20 rebounds in a 111-106 win over the Pistons in Detroit. Davis shot 24-of-34 from the line, 9-of-10 from the free-throw line and 2-of-2 from three-point range.
“It was just fun going out there and doing something like that,” Davis said. “I didn’t go in thinking I was going to do something like that. I was trying to just go and get the win. I think my teammates set me up perfectly to have a night like that with all the open looks they were giving me. Some of them even missed some shots that they normally make and I was just there for the rebound. It was definitely a team win and a team performance even though I made all the shots.”
Davis joined Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in NBA history to notch 55 points and 20 rebounds in a single game.
The Pelicans (22-33), who have won four of five, trail the Rockets (28-28) by five-and-a-half games for the final playoff spot in the West. Davis believes his team can reach the postseason for the second straight season.
“I don’t think it’s impossible,” he said. “We’re playing well right now. We got to keep it going. Of course we need other teams to lose, but we came in at the All-Star break and we said we wanted to be the best team in the NBA in the second half the season. That’s what we’re trying to do right now.”