Anthony Davis had the blessings of Pelicans coaches and teammates if he wanted to come back from his recent shoulder injury for Sunday's All-Star Game in New York.
He said that meant a lot to him. He also left no doubt that making the playoffs for the first time would mean much more.
"I just want to get back to 100 percent so I can get back on the floor with my team," Davis said Thursday during a conference call with New Orleans-based reporters.
Davis still plans to spend this weekend in New York, making appearances and watching from the sideline on Saturday and Sunday as his peers participate in basketball events.
"Without playing, it's still a good experience," Davis said, adding that he can learn plenty from simply spending time with elite players. "So I'm going to take full advantage of it."
Now in his third NBA season out of Kentucky and still only 21 years old, Davis has averaged 24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game this season, which leads the Pelicans in all three categories.
During a loss to Chicago on Saturday night, Davis lost his grip on the rim while completing an alley-oop dunk, falling about 7 feet horizontally to the hardwood.
He tried to play for a couple of minutes after the fall before taking himself out of the game.
Diagnosed with a right shoulder sprain, Davis worked with the training staff Sunday through Wednesday hoping to return quickly but was ruled out of Wednesday night's game against Indiana shortly before tipoff. A few hours later, he decided to sit out the All-Star Game.
"The more disappointing thing for me is that I couldn't be on the floor the past couple games to go out there and help my team," Davis said.
The Pelicans were tied with Chicago in the second quarter Saturday night when Davis went to the locker room for good, after which the Bulls went on a 40-11 run. New Orleans (27-26) then lost its next two games and now sits 1½ games behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Although a healthy Davis appears to be New Orleans' best hope for reaching the postseason for the first time since 2011, coach Monty Williams and Pelicans players made clear earlier this week that they believed Davis had earned the right to play in the All-Star Game -- and should -- if healthy. They took issue with the notion that playing in the NBA's marquee midseason event after missing the last two games before the break would raise questions about Davis' priorities.
"They know how blessed I am to be in this situation," Davis said. "They know I mean well by the team and would do anything I could do to help the team win. They saw my work ethic trying to get back on the floor, but it means a lot just coming from them guys to support me, especially when I'm kind of in a tough situation.
"You know, everybody wants to play in the All-Star Game, especially me -- just being a starter the first time is huge. I've got a lot of family coming out. But everybody understands where my shoulder is and knows if I could play, I would."
Davis wasn't the only key player missing for New Orleans this week. Ryan Anderson, who averages 14.9 points, missed two games with a sore right elbow. Starting point guard Jrue Holiday has not played in a month because of a lower right leg injury but has been projected to return shortly after the All-Star break. In the meantime, Tyreke Evans has looked comfortable playing point guard, raising questions about how he may split time at that spot when Holiday returns.
"We could definitely make some noise [in the playoff race], but we've got to figure a lot of things out," Davis said. "So we're definitely excited to come back after All-Star, get our team healthy again and try to make this playoff push."