Three NBA team executives told USA TODAY Sports they are operating under the premise that the Los Angeles Lakers are Anthony Davis’ preferred destination and that any other team that acquires him from New Orleans will be getting a short-term rental until Davis can become a free agent in 2020.
During the process, one source said, the Celtics even consulted with their current players to gauge their thoughts about teaming up with Davis. Davis’s friendship with Kyrie Irving has been well-documented, and the sense within the organization is that the presence of Irving can only help Boston if it trades for Davis without an assurance that he will re-sign after the 2019-20 season.
Adrian Wojnarowski: "Maybe the most intriguing team at the deadline are the New Orleans Pelicans. They are determined to try and find a way to convince Anthony Davis to stay long term. They could offer him a five-year, around $240 million super-max contract this offseason. If he says no to that, he's essentially serving notice that he's headed for free agency in 2020. The organization's got to make a decision about whether they ride that out with him, maybe go into the summer, or do they want to make a trade, get back assets for a player, who, if he was on the trade market, would be as impactful of an available player via trade as maybe we've seen in the last decade in the NBA."
Warriors. Anthony Davis. I'm throwing this out there, I'm not basing this on anything, but a sleeper team, Golden State for Anthony Davis. Chris Haynes: "That rumor's been around for some time, and I think Tim Kawakami of the Athletic in the Bay Area started the reporting on that. And I think there was something to that. I'll say this: I think things have changed a little bit now that Anthony Davis is repped by Rich Paul, who happens to be LeBron James' agent. So I think [those rumors] had more juice this time last year, to go in that direction. I would be surprised if Golden State would be able to enter the field... to picking up AD. I think the Lakers have a legitimate shot. I think Boston is definitely gonna be in there. I can't see Golden State picking that up. It would be mighty difficult - it's just a lot of things have changed since then."
I saw on here (The Athletic) where a source close to you said money would not be a deciding factor in whether or not you accept the Pelicans’ “supermax” offer if it comes. How do you separate money out of the equation? Anthony Davis: I never said money wasn’t important. Somebody (Chris Haynes, of Yahoo Sports) asked me about money or your legacy. In that case, your legacy lasts forever. Your money comes and goes, but for me I want to build a legacy. In that case, if you have to choose between money or legacy, I think legacy wins every time, in my opinion.
Gayle Benson: “And I think he’s up there helping. I think this thing with the horses, and even the Pelicans at the beginning of the season, well now they’re not doing so great, but I think we just need to give them a little bit more time. I think they’re young, and we’re going to invest more money and get the big players and do everything we can to keep Anthony (Davis) here. I really like what we have in place. I really like Anthony, but if he wants to leave, you can’t hold him back. But I always keep in touch with people that we lose, like Benjamin Watson. When he left, I kept in touch with him, and now he’s back. And then you understand it. Adrian Peterson too. A lot of people that left, I don’t ever hold grudges with people. Even as angry, well it wasn’t so much angry but disappointed as I was with his family, I don’t wish anybody harm. I think God takes care of things and he’s taken care of that situation.”
Between 2019-20 and 2024-25, Davis can earn $266.6 million with the Pelicans compared to a projected $252.3 million with a team that trades for him; that’s a difference of $14.3 million, or only $2.4 million per season. The differential could shift depending on how much the cap increases, but either way, the disparity ranges from moderate to minuscule. What Davis loses in a trade is future financial security, which matters for a player who has missed an average of 14 games per season because of numerous injuries. The benefits are that Davis could play wherever he wants and retain control of his destiny.
Bobby Marks: As one team executive told ESPN in Vegas, "Anthony Davis will not be a free agent in the summer of 2020." Yes, the All-Star can opt out of his contract after the 2019-20 season, but the future of Davis is most likely to be resolved by the first week of July -- not in 18 months when he could be a free agent, or even at the Feb. 7 trade deadline. The options that ESPN's Brian Windhorst laid out this week were confirmed by several teams in Las Vegas. After the Pelicans offer Davis a $239 million supermax extension in the offseason -- which technically can't happen until July 1 -- Davis will either accept and commit to New Orleans long term or he'll be traded early that same month.
Although you could argue that the designated player veteran extension (DPVE) has flaws, one positive is that the future of Davis will not linger into the 2019-20 season. Either Davis takes the biggest contract in NBA history or he signals it's time for both sides to move on. As one team executive said, "This will not be a long, drawn-out process."
Speaking with reporters Friday after the Los Angeles Lakers' 112-104 win over New Orleans, James was asked if he erred when he told ESPN's Dave McMenamin this week that it would be "amazing" to play with Davis some day. Told that some felt it was wrong for James to talk about another player under contract, James replied, "So?" "What'd I do?" James said. "What did I do? Was it right or wrong?"
"Ask me if I'd like to play with Jimmy Butler," James said. "Say it right now. Ask me about Kyrie Irving, Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. Ask me about [Joel] Embiid, Ben Simmons. Go ahead, all of them. Luka Doncic. Ask me right now. "Come on, guys, this is not rocket science. These are great players. Absolutely. I would love to play with a lot of great players. That is just who I am. People get caught up in bunches sometimes when they wish they could control what you say, and they can't control me, at all. "And I play by the rules."
I’m sure you’re aware there’s a lot of focus on what this season means in terms of keeping Anthony in New Orleans long term. What is like for you guys as a locker room? Recognizing the stakes for a small-market franchise like the Pelicans and a player like him? Julius Randle: Well, we don’t really focus on it. We don’t talk about it. We’re focused on the moment of now, and competing, and getting better as a team and reaching our full potential as a team. We really like our potential. At the end of day, AD is gonna do what’s best for AD. I don’t know what that is and I don’t want to have any influence on what that is. But he’s earned that right to do what he wants to do, as far as what’s best for him. Obviously, I would love to continue to play with him for the rest of my career.
As Antetokounmpo exited Fiserv Forum Wednesday night after his Bucks’ 123-115 victory over the Pelicans, he came upon Davis talking with a group of family and/or friends not far from the visitors’ dressing room. “Come to the Bucks, man,” Antetokounmpo said, smiling and shaking Davis’ hand. “Come to the Bucks.”
Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday knows his team’s best hope to championship contention is coveted by the competition. “I mean, everybody wants to [have Davis on their team],” Holiday said. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t. To us, he’s our franchise player. He’s top three in the world.” Is it distracting to hear and read media speculation about Davis potentially leaving? “Nah. I feel like, y’all hear it. We don’t really hear it,” Holiday said. “The only teams I know about is Boston and the Lakers. But again, we don’t really pay attention to that.”
There are worries around the league that Davis will turn down long-term deals altogether, and cycle -- as James did -- between one- and two-year contracts until he reaches an age and stage in his career when he is ready to lock into something longer.
Davis has given no indication he wants to leave New Orleans. In fact, he has been dedicating himself toward the team over the past year more than ever before. He's playing through injuries. He's playing out of his preferred position. He has shown noticeable leadership growth. He's having a career season and has a real chance at the MVP award.
Ahead of Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans visiting the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time this season on Friday, LeBron James openly pondered what having the All-Star forward alongside him in purple and gold at Staples Center would be like. "That would be amazing," James told ESPN on Tuesday before the Lakers' 115-110 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, referring to the Lakers landing Davis through a trade. "That would be amazing, like, duh. That would be incredible."
James had Davis on his mind after seeing ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski laying out the Lakers' trade priorities in a segment that aired on Tuesday's SportsCenter. "They're not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season because they've got to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer pre- or post-free agency," Wojnarowski said. "That's why they've looked at players who are on one-year deals who don't have money going forward."
But the C’s may be battling with their historic rival if (when) Davis becomes available. “Boston has been hawking Anthony Davis for years,” Wojnarowski said in an ESPN video with Zach Lowe. “They always hoped that it would be, whether it’s the end of this season or the beginning of next before the trade deadline, that they would gather up all those assets, all those picks Danny Ainge has, [all the] young players, and they’d be the team to be able to get Anthony Davis. But now you have L.A. and if they get shut out in free agency, they’re going to have to take all their young players to try to use them to get Anthony Davis.”
Conversations with six league sources—team executives, scouts and an assistant coach—reveal a consensus that New Orleans won’t have an easy time fixing these problems. But with so much riding on their ability to make a playoff push, they have to try. So how can they do it? Those sources offered several suggestions. 1) Get Payton back in one piece: It’s easy to forget, but the Pelicans actually got off to a sizzling start. They won their first four games, scoring at least 116 points in each of those contests, and Payton was a surprising catalyst. He was averaging 14.5 ppg, 7.0 apg and 7.0 rpg, but in the Pelicans’ fifth game, he sprained his ankle. They lost to the Jazz that night, then dropped five more games in a row. Payton returned on Nov. 16 against the Knicks, but broke his finger that night and hasn’t played since. After surgery, he was expected to miss six weeks, which would put him back in the lineup around the start of 2019—and that date can’t come fast enough for the Pelicans.
The Pelicans have acknowledged as much by moving Moore to the bench and giving Hill another run in the starting lineup. But Hill has shown that he isn’t the answer, which means help must come from outside of the organization. “I know they’re talking to a lot of teams,” says the East exec. The Pelicans’ shopping list would look similar to Houston’s—which is part of the problem. “The whole league is looking for small forwards,” says a Western Conference exec. The supply simply isn’t there to match the demand.
The fact that he looked worn down from the Pelicans' heavy schedule, coupled with the hip issue, only underscores just how talented he really is -- which is precisely why the Celtics, and so many other teams around the NBA, are constantly surveying the situation in New Orleans to see if Davis will sign the supermax contract extension he will undoubtedly be offered next summer. If he doesn't sign it, the Pelicans will have no choice but to trade him. If it comes to that, there will be no shortage of suitors, with Boston obviously among them. Davis, though, said he wasn't thinking about any of that. "I heard it tonight," the 25-year-old said when asked if he heard the local fans cheering for him during the game. "But I'm just focused on this team. I'm trying to do whatever I can to help this team get wins with the roster we have. It's been a rocky season, so it's on me to try to figure it out.
Down the hall later, Gentry acknowledged the rumor issue has been addressed with Davis. “I talked to him and told him that’s totally on him,” the coach said. “You know, he should do whatever he thinks is necessary, talk or not talk about it. But I told him we’re not covering any of it. I said all we’re going to worry about is our season this year and try to get it back to the playoffs. And then after that, I mean, it’s not a decision that any of us are going to have to make. It’s going to be him making the decision. That’s the way it is. “To me, it’s white noise. We’re going to play and do whatever we want to do, and when decision-making time comes, he’ll make a decision.”
If that happens, the Pelicans will have only one logical option: to trade Davis before he leaves in free agency. The same process has played out with several others, including Leonard, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George. None of them, though, would inspire the kind of bidding war an available Davis would. "That's what you guys do," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of the trade speculation. "You guys talk about it. He's here. He's playing on our team. We're trying to win games. That's the only thing that matters right now. "It's not anything that I'm going to have a say-so in or anything else, so we don't bother with it. We worry about now. We worry about winning games and putting everybody in the best position to win games."
But most importantly as it pertains to the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are very much in play as the ultimate long-term landing zone for the best player on the New Orleans Pelicans. A source with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the NBA told Get More Sports that Davis is considering five teams in the near and distant future: The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers.
The speculation isn’t expected to cool down, with Davis recently hiring Rich Paul of Klutch Sports — the same agent who reps LeBron James — to represent him. In the summer, the Lakers will be extremely aggressive in their pursuit of high-caliber stars to pair with James in the free-agent and trade markets. Boston, Golden State, New York and the Los Angeles Clippers will also be some of the teams monitoring Davis’ situation, sources told Yahoo Sports.
But most of all, Davis just wants to win. That’s why rival NBA executives are of the belief that Davis could be up for grabs for a large-market organization well before he is expected to opt out of his contract in 2020. He is eligible for a super-max extension with the Pelicans in July 2019 that is worth $235 million for five years. If Davis were to pass on such a massive deal, as some executives believe he could, the franchise would be forced to contemplate trading its cornerstone. Nevertheless, Davis said he’ll concern himself with contractual matters in the summer.
Davis told ESPN's The Undefeated he is still under contract with New Orleans through the 2020-21 season and he is not the source of the departure rumors. "I got two years to '20-'21. I'm here and whatever happens after that happens," Davis told ESPN's The Undefeated. "For me, right now it is about being the most dominant player in the league and helping this team win. You hear all the rumors. You hear all the talk. But it's not coming from me. I'm here to be a Pelican, help this team move forward and help this team win a championship."
He seems so loyal to New Orleans, but hiring Rich Paul (LeBron's agent from Klutch Sports) was a major red flag for the Pelicans. The Lakers seem like the no-brainer move, either via trade this summer or free agency in two summers.
Insiders think that’s what Davis is doing, with the firing of agent Thad Foucher and hiring of Rich Paul, LeBron’s close friend and agent, all about the possibility of going to the Lakers. “Why else did AD do it?” asks an East GM. “Things are going great for him. The team is going good. He got the Derrick Rose extension [a five-year $150 million deal that each team is allowed to offer one player on his rookie contract.] “It’s not because of race. Thad Foucher is an Afro-American. It’s not because of agency. Thad Foucher is from the Wasserman Group and has Russell Westbrook. So why did he do it?”
Davis isn't a free agent until 2020, but some teams are already mulling trade packages if Davis passes on an extension the New Orleans Pelicans can offer him next summer. This is the option that raises goosebumps among a handful of teams that think they might have a chance at landing Davis. The fact that Davis and the Pelicans are off to a fantastic start and that Davis has continued to be outwardly committed to New Orleans has not slowed this one bit.
"When you look at LeBron, every year you know he's going to be great and his team is going to have a chance to win the title," Davis said. "From here on out, I want to be in that conversation every year. Not every other year. Not every few years. Every year. If that's going to happen, we're going to have to win, and I'm going to have to be the most dominant player." This was simply not the way Davis talked or felt when he was 21 or 22. But he'll soon be 26, and this is his seventh year. This actually might be the beginning of his prime. He's making statements like this not because he wants to create a sound bite or launch a marketing campaign, but because he has raised his expectations. It's not lip service; his play shows that.
Those statements can be uncomfortable for some, especially with the Pelicans aware that he can be a free agent in 2020. More to the point, if Davis isn't feeling the franchise next summer, when it can offer him a five-year extension for around $240 million, there's going to be problems. Big problems. That reality is just below the surface on every decision that is taking place in New Orleans right now. Just being around the team and talking to its players, coaches and executives, the tension exists. To pretend it doesn't isn't genuine. That makes this season pretty important for the future of the franchise.
Those statements can be uncomfortable for some, especially with the Pelicans so aware he can be a free agent in 2020. More to the point, if Davis isn't feeling the franchise next summer when it can offer him a five-year extension for around $240 million, there's going to be problems. Big problems. That reality is just below the surface on every decision that is taking place in New Orleans right now. Just being around the team and talking to its players, coaches and executives, the tension exists. To pretend it doesn't isn't genuine. That makes this season pretty important for the future of the franchise.
To keep Davis past his current contract, the Pelicans will have to ask for more. Can the city and the franchise keep growing with their superstar? That is the pertinent question. “They have to know we’re nothing without them,” Davis said. Oh, Davis is something without them. But he’s also private, and he loves that there aren’t as many demands of him in a smaller market.
Anthony Davis: You can't listen to what somebody else is saying or listen to all the white noise or, 'AD's going here, he's going here, he's going here.' Well, AD is playing for the Pelicans this year. So my job is to focus on winning and helping these guys as much as possible on and off the floor. And the rest will take care of itself.
Oleh Kosel: In his interview with @Rachel__Nichols Anthony Davis said the upcoming super max contract he can sign next offseason as important, but noted that winning is a priority with his next breath.
Unlike some of the best players in the league though, Davis does not have an NBA Finals appearance, let alone a championship ring. The Pelicans aren't expected to go far this year either. Winning is certainly important for Davis but he refused to state whether he may have to leave the Pelicans to do just that. "I think that's a big part. Winning definitely helps everything, helps with your legacy, helps [you] be on the top of the list," Davis explained. "But [for me] going to the playoffs every three years doesn't help my case. At this point, it's just about winning for me, being the most dominant player in the league, and whenever that time comes, I have a great team behind me that advise me on some decisions but my focus is on this year."
In addition, recent reports claim Davis is eyeing the Lakers as well as other teams such as the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks. The Chicago native joked he had no idea how the rumors started but isn't paying attention to them for now. "You hear it everywhere, it's funny, how did that [Lakers rumors] even happen? How does that correlate?" Davis asked with a laugh. "You know, in my head, I don't pay attention to it, I keep going back to it but it's the truth, I look at what I have now and what I can do now and that's helping my team win." "You can't listen to what somebody else is saying, all the white noise, 'AD's going here, AD's going here,' — AD's playing for the Pelicans this year... the rest will take care of itself," he said.
Will Guillory: Been talking to a few people around Anthony Davis since conversation-gate broke. They've all insisted that AD's only focus is winning in NOLA this year. "There’s not a player in this league that wouldn’t want to play with AD but he’s focused on the task at hand," one source said
If they do, the Celtics will be one of the obvious suitors, with Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Robert Williams and/or a number of future picks including a possible top-five selection to dangle. Even if Tatum’s off the table, Boston would be able to field a competitive offer. Several league sources have said they believe Davis could end up either with the Celtics or Lakers if the Pelicans were to move him. If he landed with the Celtics, he’d be reunited with former Team USA teammate Irving. The two have already spoken about what it would be like to play together in Boston, according to a league source.
It’s a fact of life in the NBA. Franchise players are flipped around with astounding frequency, including James and Kevin Durant, who bolted from title-contending teams in free agency within the past three years. But the Pelicans, per a variety of sources, don’t seem particularly concerned about Davis exchanging agents, regardless who he hires. And they shouldn’t be.
So, how gratified are you that this success you’re having is finally starting to drown out all the talk of ‘AD is going to leave New Orleans in a couple of years?’ Anthony Davis: It’s still there. I still hear it. But I’m just focused on now. Right now, we’re playing well. I love these guys. I told them the other night at dinner, this is probably the best team I’ve been on, from team chemistry to the way we play, to everything we do together. Guys are really locked in and want to win.
Anthony Davis is on his way to earning All-NBA honors this season, an accomplishment that would make him super max eligible in the summer of 2019. Based on earning All-NBA in 2016-17 and likely 2017-18 (two out of the previous three seasons), Davis would be eligible to sign a five-year $230M extension with a starting salary of $39.7M in July 2019.
Scott Kushner: Anthony Davis: “I’m here until 2021 and then I’ll make a decision from there. I don’t plan on leaving in the next couple of years or anything like that. I’ve always said I wanted to be here and that’s still true.” Davis: "We have taken steps to be a winning franchise. We have just been hit with the injury bug every year since I've been here so we can't see our full potential. We know where we could've been if we had those guys. But we don't. We have to keep playing."
Davis: "You have to take it year by year. I don't go into any year saying I don't want to be here or nothing like that. Of course at some point you want to win. I feel like we are trying to get the right pieces around here." AD: "I think our front office is doing a better job. The best job they can do. I feel like we're moving in the right direction. But you do have to take it year by year & see how it goes. That's how I'm approaching it. Of course Cuz is a big factor, what he is going to do or not."
Will Guillory: Anthony Davis was really candid today about his interview with ESPN that aired yesterday. Said that he's taking things year by year, but stressed that he wants to be in New Orleans
Davis is in the second season of a five-year, $127 million contract that expires in 2021. He has been patient with the Pelicans personnel problems and the franchise's frequent missteps. He loves New Orleans and swears he doesn't long for a major market. He does, however, long for a well-run, well-balanced franchise. He sees it with San Antonio and Oklahoma City and plans to hold his franchise accountable to find a way. Cousins' arrival is a start, but the Pelicans are devoid of depth and developing young talent. "You look at the Warriors, Cleveland. Boston," he said. "They lose Gordon [Hayward], they're still playing well. KD-Steph-Draymond-Klay. They play so well with each other. They move the basketball. They don't care who scores. Steph and Draymond are out, and they still won. KD is out. They still win.
Baxter Holmes: Anthony Davis talked to @Sirius XM NBA about rumors that he and Russell Westbrook might one day join the Lakers: Anthony Davis: "Some rumor from somewhere said me and Russell was going to LA. I haven't talked to Russell or whoever the source is about that so I'm not sure where this came from but I'm here. I just signed an extension here. If I didn't want to be here I would have never signed the extension. (via Sirius XM NBA Radio)."
Anthony Davis: "For the next four years I'm going to be a Pelican. I love it here. I love playing for the organization. I don't intend on going anywhere. I want to be here. I never was one of those guys who — I was always one of those guys who wanted to stay with their franchise, and you know, [win] championships, just like Tim Duncan did. I looked up to Tim, I still look up to Tim, but the way he did it through his entire career definitely set a great example for me, so I want to be the same way."
October 25, 2021 | 7:05 pm EDT Update
Dave McMenamin: The Lakers are listing LeBron James as probable for tomorrow’s game in San Antonio pic.twitter.com/cgWmliXajQ