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Anthony Davis soars in a hometown debut

CHICAGO -- Anthony Davis is just 21 years old.

New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams made that public service announcement after watching Davis rack up 29 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and two assists in a 107-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. It's hard to believe how young the superstar big man is while watching him dominate grown men up and down the floor.

"He's just got to keep working," Williams said. "He's 21 ... he's just got to keep working. He's a fantastic player. He can shoot, he can pass, he can defend. As he gets stronger and as his mind develops, he's going to become an even better player. But he's just 21 years old."

What made this particular Davis performance even more impressive was the fact that he did it in front of friends and family. Davis, who went to Perspectives Charters School just a few miles away from the United Center, played his first NBA game in his hometown and admitted the experience was a little emotional. After missing the Pelicans' games in Chicago the past two seasons because of injury, Davis was excited about his chance to finally play at home.

He didn't disappoint.

Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler might have scored more points (33) than Davis as he continues his path toward becoming the league's most improved player, but Davis reminded everyone throughout the night who the best player on the floor was. The stats have been impressive for several years, but it's the fear and awe that his opponents show toward him that is most telling.

"He just erases mistakes," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said while raving about Davis before the game.

Thibodeau got a firsthand look at Davis over the summer, while serving as an assistant coach on Mike Krzyzewski's Team USA staff. Everybody in the league knew how good Davis was, but as Williams alluded, the scariest part for the rest of the league is Davis is getting even better.

"He is better than advertised, and that says a lot," Thibodeau said after the game. "It's amazing what he does. The game is easy for him. I shouldn't say easy because I know how hard he works to prepare himself to play well ... he is a great leader. We learned that this summer with team USA. He is a great teammate. His team loves playing with him."

Everybody else hates playing against him.

Bulls All-Star center Joakim Noah respectfully called Davis a "freak" before the game. After it was over, he came away even more impressed than before.

"He's a great player," Noah said. "Great, well beyond his years. I thought that for somebody to come in, playing in front of your hometown, usually there's some anxiety. I just saw a lot of composure out of him tonight. He came in, first shot, boom, knocked it down. You can't give him any open looks at his size. He's a very, very talented kid."

All the praise in the world wasn't going to make Davis feel much better after this game. He wanted to come back to his city and lead his team to victory, just like he did in August during a Team USA exhibition win over Brazil.

"It doesn't matter if we don't win," Davis said of performing well in front of friends and family. "I don't really care about that. I just want to win. I could have had 50 and we lose -- it really doesn't matter because it doesn't mean anything."

That's not how many in attendance felt, though. Just like he did while playing for his country in August, Davis electrified a sellout crowd in his hometown and dominated play on both ends of the floor. Davis might not appreciate this moment right now, but he left an indelible mark in his first NBA game in Chicago. The city has seen great players before, but nobody has seen anyone quite like Anthony Davis.