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Pelicans star Anthony Davis says summer is time for him to improve, and Team USA helps

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NEW ORLEANS - Getting enough rest during the NBA off-season is the least of Anthony Davis' concerns. He's just 21.

Coming off his first All-Star campaign with the New Orleans Pelicans in only his second NBA season, Davis is now looking forward to starting Team USA training camp in Las Vegas on Monday and the likelihood of joining the club for the FIBA World Cup in Madrid in August.

"Of course, I'm a young guy, so all I want to do is play basketball right now," Davis said Friday in a conference call hosted by the Pelicans. "That's the only thing on my mind is just play, play, play. I love the game so much."

Pelicans head coach Monty Williams will be an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski on the national team. In a bit of irony, Williams sees himself as a disciple of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who has never been shy about saying he'd rather Spurs stars — namely Frenchman Tony Parker and Argentine Manu Ginobili — rest during the off-season rather than play for their national squads.

Williams doesn't say that about Davis, though. Rather, he appreciates the extra time he gets to work on developing his best player.

"I think he can be a better ball-handler, especially in the open court," Williams said of Davis, adding that he is "trying to get him to understand how important he could be if he could catch the ball on the break and make plays."

Next season, Williams will try to coach New Orleans back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and success will hinge in large part on the 6-foot-10 Davis' play in the front court.

Another of Williams' Pelicans players, newly acquired centre Omer Asik, is expected to play for Turkey this summer, and Williams encourages that, too.

"Everyone who's been in these situations, they come back a lot better," Williams said. "I'm looking for those two guys to come back better."

Williams said he likely will give those two players more rest than their teammates during Pelicans training camp in October to make sure he's not overworking them on the heels of international play.

Davis said he understands why it may not be in the interest of some older NBA veterans to play internationally coming off of long NBA seasons.

"But I'm definitely just loving playing basketball, especially now, in the summertime; I think that's where you get better," Davis said. "And a lot of opportunities like this don't come for a lot of Americans because there's a lot of (American basketball stars). So you definitely don't take it for granted."

Davis reflected on his experience with the 2012 gold medal-winning team at the London Olympics between his final college season at Kentucky and his rookie NBA season in New Orleans, saying that he learned a lot practicing regularly with some of the game's top stars.

"It really helped," Davis said. "Without that experience, being around all those elite-talent guys, I don't think I ever would have known as much as I know now, or developed as quickly as I have just because of the fact that they taught me so much.

"They've seen it all, and for them to share that information with me meant I had an edge over some of the rookies that I came in (to the NBA) with," Davis added.

Davis is one of 19 players who'll be given a chance to make a 12-man roster for Madrid.

While he generally plays more at forward than centre for New Orleans, he said he has continued to bulk up with an emphasis on strength training to help his interior game. He came into the NBA at 220 pounds and now weighs 238.

Whether that translates to more time at centre for the national team remains to be seen.

"I don't know what coaches are going to do," Davis said. "But wherever they decide to play me, I'm definitely going to play. ... If they want to play me at the point, I'll play the point. I just want to go out there and win."

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