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  • July 2, 2019
    Welcome back to the Anthony Davis tour of destruction. The New Orleans Pelicans superstar forward had the look of a living unibrowed Hall of Famer following a breakthrough 2014-15 season. But after a disappointing encore (in part because of injuries), the NBA zeitgeist moved its Next Big Thing campaign sign to Minnesota, the home of Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves-Pelicans, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Uh, not so fast. Through 15 games, Davis has catapulted himself back to the forefront of league consciousness ... even though his Pelicans have earned just five wins this season.Davis dominant once againWhen New Orleans reached the playoffs in 2014-15 after a 45-win season, it appeared that the teams development was mirroring that of its former No. 1 overall pick and that there would be more good things to come. Instead, the Pelicans stumbled last season while playing 21 games without Davis. His performance dipped slightly when he was on the court as he battled through a variety of injuries, including recurrent left knee pain and a partially torn labrum suffered during his rookie season. This season, however, hes playing some of his best basketball while aiming to best his career high of 68 games played. Hes currently second in the league in Player Efficiency Rating (30.8, tied with his career high). A look at his yearly PER since his rookie season:As a scorer, Davis has shown continual growth year over year. His points per 36 minutes totals have climbed each season, hovering around the 30-point mark so far this season (29.9). Among qualified players, only Russell Westbrook (32.8) and DeMar DeRozan (30.2) score more per 36 minutes played. A look at how Davis has improved:Hes had to carry his teamWith the return of former All-Star Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans are showing signs of life over the past week (winning their past three games, including Tuesday night in Atlanta). But overall, Davis has been operating on a roster without major support in scoring, rebounding or steals. Tim Frazier is a serviceable pro, but he wouldnt be second in total points for a winning franchise. Because of that talent gap (Holiday notwithstanding), The Brow carries the lions share of the load. For example, as the leagues leading shot-blocker at 3.0 per game, he accounts for 40 percent of all blocks by Pelicans players. The percent of team totals that Davis produces, and percentages for the top three players league-wide in each category for comparison:He has an arsenal of movesA player with myriad physical gifts (agility, hands, quickness, length and jumping ability) should be able to maximize them, and Davis has used them all in developing several tried-and-true moves to carve up opposing defenses. Heres a look at four of his most effective maneuvers:1. The pick-and-pop shooterDavis may look like a center, but his ability to shoot like a wing creates a no-win situation for defenders when he comes off of screens -- even when theres good coverage. Said Gentry: Its very difficult for any 4-man, or 5-man for that matter, to stay in front of him out on the floor without him being able to jump up and shoot it over the top.2. The post manYou may not think of Davis as a back-to-the-basket big, but post-ups make up the second-largest percentage of his offensive plays this season, per Synergy Sports, and hes been just as effective at them as bruiser DeMarcus Cousins (0.949 PPP).3. The finisherDavis teammates at Kentucky werent allowed to throw it to him in the post early on his career, but they could lob it up. Five years later, the 23-year-old has clearly retained those skills.4. The ball handlerHow many big men can bring the ball up the court, push it to an open man and nail a fadeaway jumper? Davis, who honed in on his ballhandling this offseason and does pregame dribbling drills with point guard Frazier and former NBA point guard Robert Pack, has become a one-man fast break.He has expanded his rangeDavis became a 20-point scorer on average in his second season by taking most of his shots close to the basket. But range and a coach who embraces his unique skills have helped push him over 30 in his fifth season. As evidenced by the shot chart below, Davis average shot distance has increased every season. You see the pattern more clearly when you compare the percentage of shots by distance each season since his first: fewer shots close to the rim, and a big uptick in midrange jumpers. Davis now shoots just as often from 16 feet to the 3-point line (23 percent) as he does within three feet of the rim. While hes shooting just 23.3 percent from 3 this season, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry predicts hell be in the mid-to-high 30 percent range by seasons end.Gentry has encouraged the growth of Davis beyond the usual constraints of a player his size in their two seasons together. The rule of thumb is, Oh, youve got a 7-foot guy, oh, put him on the block and youve got to pound it into him. And thats not who he is, Gentry said. What he is is a really good out-on-the-floor player capable of making plays for other guys. Good shooter. And just a good facilitator.Hes capable of 50-point explosionsOnce an MVP favorite, Davis star dulled after missing a career-high 21 games in 2015-16. In one game, he dismissed all doubts ... even as the ones centered on the Pelicans supporting cast may have been reaffirmed. In the season-opener, Davis went off for 50 points -- the second-most in his career -- on 34 shots; the rest of New Orleans injury-depleted roster had 52 points on 58 shots.It would have been more satisfying if we would have won, he said after the 107-102 loss at home to the Denver Nuggets. The way I played, Im gonna have to ... probably not 50 every night, but try to get somewhere along those lines every game to give ourselves a chance to win. Thats the bottom line. We just got to go, keep finding guys and trust those guys that theyre going to make shots.On a legendary paceDavis is attempting to accomplish something very special this season: average more than 30 points, 10 boards, three blocks and 1.5 steals. Its a testament to his eye-popping combination of athleticism and size -- the only two players to hit the other thresholds while averaging 25 points are Davis predecessors: Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. Its still early and Davis would have to maintain an extremely high level in four different categories, but he has a chance to put together an historic season.The 25/10/3/1.5 clubA few more numbers of note via ESPN Stats & Information:Over the past 50 years, only seven players have scored more points prior to their 23rd birthday than Davis, who has totaled 5,276 before turning 23 in March.Davis, Shaquille ONeal and Dwight Howard are the only players over the past 30 years with 5,000 points and 500 blocks by their 23rd birthday.His 30.81 PER in 2014-15 -- considered his age-21 season but finished when Davis was 22 -- ranks 11th ever in a single season, behind only Wilt Chamberlain, Jordan and James. Though each current and future Hall of Famer appears on the list three times or more, none crossed 30 before age 24.Statistics courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, Synergy Sports Tech,, and Karl Mecklenburg Womens Jersey . After Gasquet beat fifth-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia 7-5, 6-3, Tsonga followed up with a 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-2 win against sixth-seeded Edouard Roger-Vasselin in an all-French match. Peyton Manning Womens Jersey .com) - The Chicago Blackhawks aim for their third three-game winning streak of the season when they host the struggling Edmonton Oilers in Sundays battle at the United Center. . Andrew Luck lost his favourite target and the Indianapolis locker room lost one of its most revered leaders when Reggie Wayne was diagnosed Monday with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that will cost him the rest of the season. Shannon Sharpe Jersey . Bradwell was scheduled to become a free agent Tuesday. Born and raised in Toronto, Bradwell is entering his sixth CFL season, with all six played for his hometown Argonauts. Dalton Risner Jersey . The winner Saturday will remain in the elite 10-team field next year. "We talked about wanting to be disciplined and stick with our game plan and good things will come," Draisaitl said, who had two goals for the victors. As he often does, Dexter Fowler got the party started with a single that led to a run in the very first Cubs at-bat of the teams NLCS-opening win over the Dodgers on Saturday.The next inning, it was Jason Heywards turn to ignite the crowd at Wrigley Field, as he belted a pitch to the right-field wall and sprinted to third for a triple before scoring on Javier Baezs hit.It was just two Georgia boys getting on base and then crossing the plate. The score: 2-0 Cubs.The bond between Fowler and Heyward extends far beyond their being fixtures in the same Cubs lineup or even manning the outfield together as part of the best defense in baseball. It goes all the way back to when the two were just coming into their own as teenage baseball stars near Atlanta, and it began with an introduction that came as a surprise to an 18-year-old Fowler.We had the same trainer, and one day he says, Dex, wait around for a little bit. I got your twin coming in. I said, My twin? What are you talking about? Fowler recalled of meeting Heyward, who is four years younger.So I wait around for 15 minutes. He walks in. This dude is my height. Bigger than me. Got, like, a mustache. Im graduating that year, and hes in ninth grade.Im like, Yeah, right. This dude is my age. From then on, we played on the same summer league team. Obviously, years behind me, but I kept up on him. Then we hit at the same place and developed a friendship.That friendship has continued to this day. Heyward admits that Fowler is a little more public, but its the sense of humor that bonds them. Fowler agrees.J-Hey is a little more reserved than I am, he said. At the same time, he has a good heart. Hes funny and jokes around. Hes like my little brother.Asked what Fowler was like at 18, Heyward said, He was the same. Always a smile, funny and always a good time.This spring, it was Fowlers turn to deliver a surprise entrance, one that put smiles on the faces of all his teammates, especially Heyward.Fowler famously kept his return to the Cubs to himself, then stunned his old -- and new -- teammates by walking onto the practice field at spring training one morning, after it appeared he was likely to join the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent.ddddddddddddHeyward was as shocked as anyone.He didnt know, Fowler said. I got him. I got everyone. I wanted to keep it a secret.He was very excited. He gave me a huge hug. Its great to be on the field with him. He makes my job a lot easier.For Heyward, it was a moment he wont forget. It was just cool to see him back with his team, he said. And for me, having one of my guys that I grew up with.In a frustrating first season with the Cubs, after Heyward spurned the Cardinals and signed a $184 million contract that guaranteed his every moment would come under intense scrutiny, Fowlers presence has meant a familiar face nearby as Heyward acclimates to life in Chicago.We always said it would be crazy if we ended up on the same team, Heyward said recently. When its [free agency] going on, you have no idea where things are going to end up. Then here we are.Throughout the season, Fowler was there for his friend as hitting woes -- and the pressure from the outside --?mounted.Someone that has been there before and done all the stuff, you end up just naturally leaning on that, Heyward said of learning from Fowler.If there is ever anything that needs to be said, were not afraid to say it to each other, Fowler said. Thats the way it should be.It could be their only season as teammates, as once again Fowler is set to become a free agent. Theres no telling what could happen, though Fowler has been the glue in the clubhouse and at the top of the order during the Cubs resurgence. No matter what the future holds, the two outfielders are cherishing their time next to each other in the locker room and in the outfield.I told him he would love it over here, Fowler recalled saying to Heyward during the free-agency period. And I said, Bro, if were on the same team, youre never going to stop laughing, man.Theyve been laughing all the way into the postseason. Baseball brought them together, and their bond might help bring Chicago a championship.Its special, Fowler said. To see how this started, and now were here together. Its definitely a blessing. 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