NEW ORLEANS -- The presence, or lack thereof, of Anthony Davis was unmistakable Wednesday as the New Orleans Pelicans lost 105-99 to the Denver Nuggets in the first home game for the team since Davis' trade request became public on Monday.
Davis was absent through almost the entirety of the team's pregame hype video prior to tipoff, and he was removed from an image of the Pelicans' entire roster with the motto "Do It Big" at the conclusion of the video.
"I've never even seen that video," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said after the game. "I really haven't. I'm not avoiding anything, but -- I couldn't tell you who's on that and who's not."
A league source told ESPN that Davis' removal from the video was done to prevent negativity around Davis, believing that putting his image on the big screen could have encouraged booing.
Davis, who is still out because of a finger fracture, sat mostly inconspicuously on the end of the bench during the first three quarters, joining in on timeout huddles and cheering on his teammates.
The tone in the arena was mostly tepid, with a couple of scattered signs and possibly an extra level of support for Jrue Holiday, who was loudly cheered during starting introductions. When Davis emerged from the tunnel prior to the game, a couple of fans booed, but it was hardly noticeable. One fan held a sign near the Pelicans' bench that read "AD, LeBron won't love you like we do."
A reporter pointed out to Gentry that Davis wasn't on the bench during the fourth quarter, but Gentry was unfazed.
"He's right here in the locker room," Gentry said with a laugh. "When I walked in, he was in the locker room, so ... That's the other thing -- I don't look down the bench and see who's on the bench and who's not.
"I think we're making more of a big deal of it than it is. I don't think there's anything [to it]. As I've said, [Davis] still talked to all the guys, he was still in [the locker room] when we came in. That's what I know. Whatever you guys want to write and make out of that, you gotta do what you gotta do. But I think you're reaching a little bit."
Is AD's absence from hype video something or nothing?
Paul Pierce and Michael Wilbon explain why it was awkward for the Pelicans to remove Anthony Davis from the hype video.
Davis has not spoken publicly since his trade request, but he is expected to address reporters after the team's practice on Friday. He is due to return from his injury in the coming days, but when asked if Davis would play another game for the franchise once he's cleared, Gentry said before the game that he was unsure.
"That's a hard thing to answer," he said. "I don't really know how to answer that. I assume that he will. That's something that will obviously have to be discussed about what's best for him and what's best for our team."
Team owner Gayle Benson addressed the team pregame in the locker room, congratulating the players on beating the Houston Rockets on the road on Tuesday. Late in that victory, Davis was active in huddles, talking with Gentry and assistant coaches. Despite the clear discomfort in the situation, Gentry said it's mostly business as usual.
"It's not awkward at all," Gentry said. "I think if you ask every guy in the locker room, they'll tell you the same thing. He's the same guy. He asked to be traded, but he's the same guy. All of a sudden his personality didn't change and all of a sudden we don't feel differently about him at all. It's one of those things. We'll have to manage it as an organization, and he'll have to manage it as an individual and we'll get through the whole thing."
"AD is a good kid," the coach added. "A good, solid kid. The guys in the locker room, obviously, like him, and he likes them. Nothing has changed from a coaching standpoint. It was within his right to do, to ask for that. It's out there, but the one thing we can't do as coaches and players and as a team is we can't let that be an excuse for us or, two, affect the way we think or what we're trying to do."