COLUMNS

The franchise

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

It was made official last week. We'll be seeing the most famous unibrow in sports for at least five more years.

The Pelicans stepped up and did what they absolutely had to do if they want the franchise to stay relevant and possibly compete for championships in the future. They just re-signed arguably the brightest young star in the game.

Last week, Anthony Davis inked the most lucrative deal in NBA history. It will keep him in New Orleans for five years and pay him a king's ransom of $145 million. The $29 million he'll see each year is a record-high.

This deal had to get done for New Orleans. After Chris Paul jumped ship for Los Angeles, the Pelicans (formally the Hornets) fell into a deep abyss of futility. They became an automatic "W" on the schedules of each opponent.

There was a glass ceiling there that prevented them from climbing out of obscurity.

That's when Davis came to town. The Pelicans nabbed him with the No. 1 pick back in the 2012 draft and instantly, they had themselves a franchise player. The entire landscape of the organization was shifted.

In his rookie season, he was slowed down by injuries but by the time his sophomore campaign came around, he was quickly justifying the Pelicans' pick.

And in his third year, he became an All-Star and cemented his place as one of the best players in the league.

He averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks a game as he helped lead New Orleans to a complete resurgence. They went 45-37 and reached the playoffs for the first time since they changed their name to the "Pelicans."

They may have lost in the opening round to the eventual champion Warriors, but they finally broke through that ceiling. They have shown their potential and what they have the capability to accomplish.

They have a very talented supporting cast with Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and Norris Cole. They could shuffle things around and bring in another solid player or two.

But one thing will remain: Davis. With his re-signing, they continue to build the team around him. With him, they're contenders. Without him, they're back in the abyss, back to being the whipping boys of the Western Conference.

The reason he is so vital to the success of the Pelicans is because of the impact he has in each game. He has steadily improved offensively; he can routinely score over 20 points a game.

He can dominate the boards and when it comes to defense, he's one of the best in the league. He controls everything that comes close to the rim. If you go in for a lay-in or dunk, there's a good chance he's either going to block your shot or alter it.

I give my kudos to General Manager Dell Demps and owner Tom Benson for not wasting any time. They didn't get cheap and play hardball; they gave Davis what was due to him and locked him up for the next five years.

It was the perfect time for him to ink a new deal. New Orleans' stock is on the rise.

They've just made the playoffs for the first time in four years, and they have a new coach in Alvin Gentry.

Gentry is coming from the world champion Warriors--where he served as an assistant. He's already talking about bringing more energy and more excitement to the franchise and playing with more of an up-tempo style.

With Davis, New Orleans now has two franchise players--Drew Brees in football and the 22-year-old All-Star in basketball.

Brees got his epic franchise deal a few years ago. Unfortunately, Benson played hardball with him before finally giving way to the new contract.

It was a huge sum of money, but it had to get done. The Saints were a laughing stock before Brees came to town. Ever since, they've won their only Super Bowl, and they're a perennial championship contender.

He is the one player you have to have. You then build your team around him.

Davis is the same kind of player. And unlike Brees, he is still in the infancy stages of his career. He's only going to get better.

The franchise made a huge mistake in letting the same type of player in Paul slip through their fingertips years ago. Before his departure, they had built themselves into a solid team that was making the playoffs every year.

When he left, the franchise took a rapid nose-dive. I'm glad to see the organization has learned from their mistakes.