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NEW ORLEANS — As the lights dimmed in the Smoothie King Center for the national anthem and a calm came over the crowd, one New Orleans Pelicans fan let Anthony Davis know exactly what he thought about his return to the city he once called home.
“AD’s a sellout!”
It was just a precursor to the type of treatment Davis was going to receive Wednesday night as the Los Angeles Lakers forward played his first game in New Orleans since an offseason trade.
From the moment Davis hit the floor in warm-ups, the boos came crashing down from the top of the arena.
But Davis got the last laugh, scoring a game-high 41 points in the Lakers’ 114-110 win.
Davis said experiencing the boos last season while he was still a member of the Pelicans — when he was booed in his first game back after requesting a trade — helped ease him into Wednesday’s game. It also helped that LeBron James has had his share of returns to former teams as well.
“He went through a lot worse from what he told me. I just got boos. … I felt good coming to the game when the ball was tipped,” Davis said. “I think coming in and just worrying about what was on the floor and not what the crowd was saying or whatever. I did here something during the national anthem. That was the only time, it was super quiet. Other than that, I didn’t really hear much. I actually got some love when I was sitting on the bench from some Pelican fans.”
Davis’ exit from the Crescent City was a drawn-out affair that started when he requested a trade in January but wasn’t dealt until the summer.
On Wednesday, Pelicans fans relentlessly booed Davis any time he touched the ball, but the razzing wasn’t just reserved for New Orleans’ former No. 1 pick as James received his share of boos as well. James, the first person announced in the starting lineups, was booed in the early going but as the game wore on, the boos focused on Davis.
Every time Davis touched the ball, the boos of Pelicans’ fans drowned out the cheers of the purple-and-gold-clad fans in the crowd. If Davis made a shot, Lakers fans would stand up and cheer. If he missed, it made Pelicans fans cheer as if Brandon Ingram or Jrue Holiday had made a basket.
Davis’ teammates heard the boos throughout and had other ideas about where they should’ve been directed.
“New Orleans fans should probably boo their own team for letting him get 40 and come back,” Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said. “I don’t know what that was. But he was ready for this game. On the way to the arena on the bus he was rapping out loud and he never really does that so you could kinda tell that he was ready to play.”
James said the team could feel throughout the day how much the game meant to Davis.
“We understood, I mean anytime you go back to a place you’ve made a mark, you started your career… you wanna come back and play well,” James said. “We knew that as his brothers … that goal that he had