As Anthony Davis fielded questions about what his return to New Orleans on Wednesday might feel like, he stared across the Los Angeles Lakers‘ locker room at someone who already has answers about how to navigate an uneasy homecoming: LeBron James.
Of course James remembers the animosity in the air when he played his first game in Cleveland with the Miami Heat. He remembers it so well that he knows the date — Dec. 2, 2010 — as if it were a loved one’s birthday.
Nearly a decade later, James is trying to prepare Davis for what to expect when New Orleans Pelicans fans will surely pelt him with vitriol pent up from seeing their franchise player walk out the door. In the past week, a number of Lakers spoke about the issue.
“I talked to him,” James said, “because I know what it’s like going into a situation where you would call home for seven years. … He’s a kid when he got there, and he became a man along that seven-year journey, so it’s just going to be a different situation for him personally.”
Davis said he has already had a dress rehearsal. “[I] felt like I was on the other side,” he said, when he was booed at home in February in his first game after the trade deadline when he was still with the Pelicans despite requesting a trade. This time, he will actually be on the other side when he is introduced as a Laker.
“I got a little taste of it, but I know it’s going to be even worse,” Davis said last week.
A couple of days later, as the game drew closer, he was more blunt about what he expected.
“I’m pretty sure every time I catch the ball, it’s probably going to be boos and stuff like that,” Davis said. “Obviously they’re fans of the Pelicans. And I understand why they feel that way, but it’s all love on my end.”
“It’s going to be a great battle,” Davis said. “Those guys are going to try to take our heads off just to prove a point and — I don’t want to say I want to take their heads off, [but] I just want to win it.”
James might have played the most notable “reunion game” out of all the Lakers, but he is not the only one of Davis’ teammates to experience it firsthand.
“I’m pretty sure every time I catch the ball, it’s probably g