Holiday insists Davis situation isn't a distraction

SAN ANTONIO -- The dark and empty AT&T Center buzzed with animated discussion Saturday morning among the New Orleans Pelicans after their shootaround.

But instead of the obvious conversation focused on Anthony Davis, who requested a trade Monday through his agent, Rich Paul, of Klutch Sports, Jrue Holiday and a couple of Pelicans argued the virtues of various fast-food franchises with the discussion delving as deep as lighting and ambiance.

The scene only bolstered what Holiday would say seconds later.

"Nothing has really changed," Holiday told ESPN. "It's just that people keep asking us the question: 'Is it weird?'"

With Davis (left index finger sprain) sitting at the end of the bench in a tan blazer and jeans, the shorthanded Pelicans hit the court for their 113-108 loss to the San Antonio Spurs also missing Nikola Mirotic (right calf strain), Julius Randle (right ankle sprain), E'Twaun Moore (bruised left quadriceps), and Elfrid Payton (right ankle sprain).

So at 23-30 staring up from near the bottom of the Western Conference standings with a slew of injuries, New Orleans insists Davis' situation isn't a distraction.

"Not really, it's just more so the media keeps asking us if it's a distraction, or asking me," Holiday said. "I feel like we've had two games [coming into Saturday] where we played very, very well, and having Anthony there, he's been the ultimate professional and friend, not just to me, but everybody on the team."

The latter certainly appeared to be the case after the team's morning shootaround, which Davis attended dressed in full practice gear. As the team boarded a charter bus to leave the arena Saturday morning, Davis could be seen joking and chatting with teammates.

Then, hours later, New Orleans would find a way to make the matchup against a surging Spurs squad interesting, despite trailing by 22 points with 5:55 left. The Pelicans embarked on a 24-5 run to chop San Antonio's lead to just three with 38 seconds left on Frank Jackson's layup.

That's as close as New Orleans would get.

"We never give up," Holiday said. "I feel like people think we're shorthanded or maybe that we're going to get blown out, but we haven't had many blowouts this year, and that's because we're always going to fight until there's zero on the clock, no matter who is playing."

In the moments before tipoff as Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry addressed the media, Davis sat in a private space on an examination table inside the visiting locker room receiving ultrasound treatment from the medical staff on his sprained left index finger. Davis said the team would re-evaluate the injury after Saturday's game, and his intention is to suit up and play once cleared to participate.

Given his own experience last season in dealing with Kawhi Leonard's trade demands, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked whether he provided any advice to Gentry, whom he calls a friend.

"No, that's none of my business," Popovich said.

But Popovich did greet Davis at the conclusion of Saturday's game, and the two spoke briefly.

The NBA trade deadline arrives Thursday, and Davis remains under contract through 2020. So despite recent trade offers from the Los Angeles Lakers that were deemed underwhelming by the club, the Pelicans could wait until the offseason to deal Davis, when the Boston Celtics, who are also interested in trading for the five-time All-Star, would be in better position to make a stronger offer.

If Davis remains with the Pelicans beyond the trade deadline, the situation could force Gentry to make the difficult and awkward decision of whether to play Davis or bench him for the rest of the season.

Davis has missed the past seven games because of the finger injury but expects to be cleared soon to play.

Gentry was noncommittal Friday when asked whether Davis would play again for the Pels when healthy, saying, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Still, the Davis situation doesn't come without ripple effects, not just within the Pelicans' organization, but probably league wide. Sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that as part of discussions regarding Davis around the league, teams are now contacting New Orleans about possibly moving Holiday. But the Pelicans have indicated no interest in trading him.

Beyond this season, Holiday still has three years and $77 million remaining on his contract, which runs through 2022.

Holiday signed the five-year deal worth $125 million in the summer of 2017, and said at the time that Davis' presence played "like 90 percent" of a role in his decision to re-sign.

Holiday didn't walk back those comments Saturday, stressing he empathized with Davis' desire to do what's in his best interests.

"One of the reasons why I came back was because of Anthony," Holiday told ESPN. "But I also know that he has to do what's best for him. But that doesn't stop my mentality of going out on the court and trying to win. Every time I get on the court, I feel like I pour my heart out. I exhaust myself. And I'm always going to do that no matter who is on the court."

With Davis out and injuries permeating the roster, several players have received increased minutes such as Jackson, who played a team-high 42 minutes and led New Orleans in scoring with a career-high 25 points. Darius Miller played 33 minutes, scoring 11 points, and Holiday contributed 15 points and four assists.

"I think what is happening is they're on the court together a lot right now because of the injuries that we have, and they're playing for each other, playing hard and competing," Gentry said. "They know that this is an opportunity for them to establish themselves in the league."

Added Popovich: "With all the guys out for New Orleans, they've been playing well, beating Houston, [and] they had an opportunity to beat Denver the other night. They've really pulled together, played well and played hard."

Holiday, meanwhile, entered the matchup against the Spurs averaging career highs in points (21.2) and rebounds (4.9), and his eight assists per game ties a career high.

He didn't hesitate when asked whether he was concerned how Davis' situation might affect his own future.

"Not even a little bit," Holiday said. "Unless I hear something from upper management where I'm going to be traded or something like that, I plan to keep trying to win every game that I step on the court wearing a Pelicans jersey."