METAIRIE, La. (AP) — When Pelicans finished practice on Thursday, Anthony Davis went into coach Alvin Gentry’s office, followed later by interim general manager Danny Ferry.
As they spoke, privacy shades on windows that otherwise offer a view of practice courts were pulled down.
After the meeting, Gentry said Davis was slated to start at Indiana on Friday night. But beyond that, the Pelicans weren’t ready to shed much light on how they plan to handle having their disaffected six-time All-Star on the roster for the final seven weeks of the regular season.
“He’s playing tomorrow,” Gentry said repeatedly in response to varying questions about Davis’ status with the club. “He’s playing the game tomorrow. Let’s get to that one and then we can worry about everything else.”
Davis, who is represented by the same agent as James, has requested a trade. The Lakers tried to acquire Davis before this season’s Feb. 7 trade deadline, but the Pelicans declined to move him, opting instead to wait until the offseason, when more will be known about draft slots and more teams can make concrete offers.
NBA rules forbid clubs from resting healthy players in ways deemed detrimental to the league, particularly for nationally televised games and road games. So the Pelicans are trying to determine the best way to comply with those rules during their final 23 games while also planning for a future without Davis.
Gentry characterized the ongoing saga the strangest thing he has been a part of “in my life.”
The game at Indiana will be the Pelicans’ first since they fired general manager Dell Demps on Friday and appointed Ferry as his interim replacement. Gentry, who was hired by Demps to coach a team built around Davis, said he’d like to continue coaching New Orleans under the next general manager, whatever his vision for the roster may be.
“I love New Orleans. I like being here,” Gentry said. “I love my job and I’d like to be here a long time.”
Gentry also said he retains “a ton of respect” for Demps.
“I wouldn’t be here without Dell,” Gentry said. “We worked well together and I appreciate what he did for me.”
Based on the philosophy expressed in the past by Pelicans upper management, the next general manager will have the freedom to pick a new coach.
Gentry sounded resigned to the possibility that his tenure here might not last beyond this season. The Pelicans are emerging from the All-Star break with a 26-33 record, six games out of the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. This is Gentry’s fourth season, and New Orleans’ only playoff berth since he was hired came last season.
“What I’m going to concentrate on is 23 more games and to have them try to play at a real high level and compete at a real high level, find out a little bit about our younger guys,” Gentry said. “As a coach, you’ve got to try to get your guys to see if they can focus on the task at hand, and that’s playing basketball games — and you know it’s not easy to do with some of the things that’s going on right now. That’s asking a lot out of anybody with the way things have been. But that’s what we’re here to do.”
Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor, who was the only player to speak with reporters after practice, insisted that he and his teammates were not bothered by Davis’ continued presence in the lineup.
“It’s normal for us. That’s a credit to AD. He’s such a great person — he’s such a great teammate — that we love having him around,” Okafor said. “I think everybody here selfishly would like him to stay. But at the end of the day, we want him to be happy and we want what’s best for him. But it isn’t awkward for us at all.”
Notes: Gentry said guard Elfrid Payton, who has missed New Orleans’ last nine games before the All-Star break with a right ankle sprain, is expected to start at Indiana.