The New Orleans Pelicans have never been good enough. They’ve come close, such as the glory days with Chris Paul and David West, but they’ve never been a true contender.

Then, they acquired superstar center DeMarcus Cousins, giving them, alongside Anthony Davis, the best big man duo in the NBA.

Sure, there were some growing pains in the beginning, but they seemed to have it down approaching the NBA All-Star Break. Both Davis and Cousins were selected as All-Star starters, and they were on pace to be the first duo in NBA history on the same team to average 25 points and 10 rebounds each. Finally, things were looking up. The Pels beat the Houston Rockets.

And then they got the bad news: Boogie ruptured his Achilles, ending his season and potentially setting him back a solid year, maybe even two, before he’s back to the same insane high-level play that we’ve come to expect from him.

So much for contending.

“We could have gone through the playoffs,” said Davis. “No one could really stop us as bigs. We go to the Finals if we went. [Rajon] Rondo reminds us of it: ‘You guys are the two best bigs. I know what it takes to win championships; we got it.’”

Do I actually believe the Pels were championship contenders this season? No, of course not. Could they have managed a nice run in the Western Conference? Absolutely. The Pels have the two best big men in the league and a solid rotation at guard. Their main issue is depth, which certainly isn’t helped by the loss of Cousins.

“When he goes down, it’s, all right, it goes back to AD before DeMarcus, a lot of minutes, weight of the world on your shoulders,” said Davis. “You know, you gotta carry the team on your back, you gotta almost get 40 every night for us—to give us a chance to win.”

Fortunately, the Pels still have Davis. And if anyone can pick up the pieces, it’s the Brow.

“You kind of have that Russell Westbrook mentality when [Kevin Durant] went out,” said Davis. “Russ just went out there and played, and he shot 40 shots sometimes, you know, whatever it takes to help your team win, and I’m kind of taking that approach. I think it’s 3 through 10 is all right there [in the West], so we want to make sure we’re in the mix. We can’t let this thing go away.”

Davis is extra motivated now. He’s made the playoffs before, but that isn’t special. He wants to win. He wants a trip to the second round or even the Western Conference Finals.

“I’ve done that before, and nobody talks about it. Nobody talks about it at all. I feel like we can do more. We have to. You know, they all say basketball is a game of runs. This might be our run. You know, you don’t know, and you just got to play it out and see where it goes from there.”

That’s all Davis really wants—to win and win a lot. He knows that’s what matters at the end of the day. 40 years from now, people will still bring up the name Anthony Davis (he is, after all, one of the top three best players in the world right now), but without some playoff runs and maybe even a championship or two, it’ll be tough to put his name up there with the greatest of all time.

“Winning. That’s it. That’s how you’re judged. You can score, you can dominate. You can do whatever. But they calculate everything off winning. You know that. I know that. Everybody in the league knows that. I hear it all the time: ‘Anthony is a good player, but he hasn’t won anything. He’s not a winner. He hasn’t been to the playoffs in two years.’ It bothers me. You know you’re doing everything in your power to try and win. Playing through injuries, playing a ton of minutes, diving on the floor, but you just can’t come up with enough wins to go to the playoffs. And it isn’t enough just going to the playoffs. You want to make noise. You want to be a threat. People judge you. For DeMarcus and me, this is the time. The time is now.”

Now, his job is not only to carry the team on his back, but also recruit DeMarcus to resign with the Pelicans this offseason. They both want to win, and they certainly have the ability to do that together. If not, then Davis will most likely leave after 2021, and the franchise will have to start over…again.

“It makes you think, cause you’re wondering if you’re following in that same path. But then again, you’re like, ‘This year could be the year.’ So, just got to take it year by year and just see, and see where the team is going, what direction they want to go to and just see where their head is.”

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