Storyline: Anthony Davis Trade?

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Equally, sources close to the situation have said repeatedly that Davis wants a reason to stay. The supermax contract the Pelicans can offer is part of that, but also surrounding him with complimentary stars that can really challenge matters, too, which brings the situation back to the front office being aggressive.

The determining factor in the short term will be the level of success the Pelicans do or do not have during the first half of the upcoming 2018-19 season. If they are middle-of-the-pack or worse in the competitive Western Conference, it is more likely than not that Davis will be moved before the trading deadline. And if that becomes the case, no team is more primed to exchange a bushel full of assets than the Celtics, whose president, Danny Ainge, has long coveted Davis. “Winning and being the best player on the floor every night” matter most to Davis, according to the source, who spoke to Get More Sports on the condition of anonymity.
1 month ago via ESPN

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.”

Paul George, who forced Indiana to trade him a year before his contract expired, is the most recent example of stars maneuvering early to preserve their status as “Lary Bird players,” remaining eligible for maximum dollars. Insiders think that’s what Davis is doing, with the move to Klutch Sports all about the possibility of going to the Lakers. “Why else did he do it?” an East GM asked. “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?”

If Davis decides not to sign the extension, the New Orleans Pelicans could look to trade him. “My sense has always been with Anthony that he is always: some players are looking for reasons to stay and some players are looking for reasons to leave,” said Adrian Wojnarowski on the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective Show. “I’ve always thought that Anthony is a guy looking for reasons to stay in New Orleans. And I think that will continue to be the case until he feels he’s out of them. “I do think down the line that the Boston and L.A., if he became available, that will be interesting, especially if the Lakers get shut out this summer.”

Coach Alvin Gentry says there’s nobody in the world the New Orleans Pelicans would trade Anthony Davis for. No, seriously. Nobody. “If you don’t want to call him the best player, I call him the most valuable,” Gentry told reporters after Monday’s practice. “If you can trade him for anybody, then he is the most valuable guy in the league. Not that we would ever consider that. … There’s no one in the league that we would trade him for and there’s no one out of the league — not even Beyonce. If we wouldn’t trade him for her, he’s probably untouchable.”
2 months ago via ESPN

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.

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.

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.

“I anticipate Anthony Davis is going to do the exact same thing [as Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler] to try to navigate himself to be in Los Angeles with LeBron James,” Rose said on ESPN’s Get Up! However, Stephen A. Smith isn’t so sure the Lakers will be the only players in making a move for Davis in the near future. “For the most part your right,” Smith said. “He definitely wants out. He signed with Klutch Sports. Anthony Davis doesn’t want to be in New Orleans any longer. “Whether it’s definitively the Los Angeles Lakers I’m not so sure.

Chris Mannix: “What everyone around the league is zeroing in on [is to see what Anthony Davis does]. They are waiting for the first time that Anthony Davis grumbles a little bit. They’re waiting to see either private or public consternation from Anthony Davis. That’s the first domino to fall: once he starts griping a little bit about what’s going on there, and why they can’t put their type of team around him, that’s when you start to panic in New Orleans.”

Are the Warriors still targeting New Orleans center Anthony Davis? Sure. Lacob and Myers love to circle the best names possible years in advance of their potential availability, and figure out how they might be able to land the biggest fish out there. It used to be Kevin Durant. Now the Warriors’ biggest target is Davis, and they understand that their clearest way to get him was to sacrifice several big parts of their foundation — maybe Klay Thompson and/or Draymond Green — in a trade.

Gorman doesn’t think it’s likely the Celtics trade Irving but if the team is serious in its pursuit of Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, Irving might have to be part of any legitimate offer the Celtics make. “Again, if you’re talking about the big guy from New Orleans [Anthony Davis] then you’re going to have to be talking about a really really, good player going back the other way. And that’s the only other player that the Celtics really would put everyone on the table for.”

I’ve long felt the Celtics should hold tight to their assets—from the Lakers/Kings first-round pick they received in the Tatum trade to Tatum himself—with the hopes of landing another big fish. But one executive I spoke with made a good point: The Pelicans trading Anthony Davis is nothing more than a fantasy. Even if AD, who can opt out of his current contract in 2020, was eventually made available, by that point, Boston may not even have the most to offer. Boston shouldn’t wait on that pipe dream, the executive contended, and should pounce on the next good opportunity that comes.

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.”

Davis said that hearing former players such as Kevin Garnett express regret about not asking sooner for a trade to a more competitive franchise has made him think. “It makes you think, ’cause you’re wondering if you’re following in that same path,” he said. “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.”

At least, that’s the view from other front offices. Several teams — Boston, most prominently, but also Golden State, San Antonio and Chicago — will go into this trade deadline not only with their own rosters in mind, but with some consideration for the potential of a Davis trade this summer. “A.D. is obviously a great player, but they’re stuck and his free agency is coming faster than you think,” one GM told Sporting News. “It is hard to operate under the gun with a situation like that, so it is something they’ll need to at least explore this summer. If Dell stays on, he is going to want to find ways to keep building and maybe even take a chance on keeping DeMarcus. But if Dell goes, there are four or five teams hoping hard for a fire sale.”

Sorry to shut down the party, but a Davis-to-the-Celtics deal isn’t happening any time soon. During an appearance on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explained why Davis will remain in a Pelicans jersey. “New Orleans has no intention of trading Anthony Davis,” Woj said. “Boston’s uniquely positioned in that they have draft picks and young players and all the things — if a team was gonna trade Anthony Davis — all the things you’d want. But [the Pelicans] aren’t trading Anthony Davis… He wants to make it work in New Orleans. He wants to get into the playoffs.”

The Celtics and Pelicans have yet to engage in any discussions regarding a trade for Anthony Davis, but, in a Herald exclusive, New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry set the price for a potential transaction between the clubs. “I know there’s been rumors about Boston trying to trade for him or whatever,” said Gentry, “and my response to that is, yeah, we’ll trade him. But they’re going to have to give us the New England Patriots and the two planes that they just bought. . . . And I don’t think they’re going to do that. So we’re not even thinking about those kind of things.”

As for the stories about Davis at each stop on the Pelicans’ itinerary, Gentry said, “It doesn’t matter. To me, he likes it, he likes being here and that’s the only thing that matters. Every indication I get when I talk to him is that he’s committed to being in New Orleans. I mean, he’s a once in a lifetime player, and he’s happy here. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he’s never said anything to me but, ‘I want to win and I want to do it here.’ So it’s up to us to just continue to try to put the necessary players around him to get that done.”

He walked into GM Dell Demps’ office and asked about it. “He told me that [Boston] was calling, but nothing was going to happen,” Davis said. “At the same time, though, you see how organizations treat players. Isaiah Thomas. DeMarcus [Cousins] told me that the [Kings] told him that he wasn’t going to get traded, but they traded him. Isaiah took his team to Eastern Conference Finals, and they traded him. “It makes you wonder: Does this organization really have my back? I’ve been loyal to this organization. I love it here. I love this team. I think we’re moving in the right direction. DeMarcus, Rondo, some other players that are helping us, but people get judged on winning. And I want to win.

Davis said that he spoke with his agent, Thaddeus Foucher, and Pelicans general manager Dell Demps about the rumors earlier in the offseason and he was assured that there was nothing to worry about. “I understand it’s a business, but if I don’t hear anything from Dell or my agent, I don’t pay attention to it,” said Davis, who averaged 28 points and 11.8 rebounds in 2016-17. “Once I first heard (the rumors), then I heard it again, then I heard it again, I just wanted to make sure. I found out it wasn’t (true), and that was the beginning of the summer, so I haven’t paid attention to it since.”

Mannix said the Celtics have the capability of putting together a hard-to-turn-down offer, especially if the lottery luck continues with the Nets and Lakers picks the C’s own. “If you’re the Pelicans, they’re going to be very few offers that make you pause for Anthony Davis,” Mannix said. “Spin it forward to next June and the let’s say ping-pong balls fall Boston’s way. The Nets are bad, let’s say they’re number one. The Lakers land in the two through five range. Let’s say they wind up at three. “One and three and Jayson Tatum?” Mannix theorized. “That’s going to be hard for New Orleans to turn down.”

“It’s reasonable to think that he will want out and that his people will start pressing to get him out,” Beck said. “If you’re the Boston Celtics and you’re still sitting on that cache of picks and players, you are sitting so perfectly to make that kind of deal. Arguably, given Anthony Davis’ talent and his age, this should be the best package we’ve seen in, I don’t know, decades. It should be the kind of package that blows you away. The kind of package people thought they wanted to see Boston do for Paul George or Jimmy Butler.

It figures to be an interesting season in Boston. The addition of Gordon Hayward fortified a top-seeded roster, while dismal seasons by the Nets (who will fork over their 2018 first-round pick) and Lakers (who owe Boston their ’18 pick if it falls between Nos. 2 and 5) will help the Celtics continue to build for the future. In addition, rival executives expect Boston to be keeping close tabs on New Orleans, which is entering a critical season. The Pelicans are committed to seeing if an Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins frontcourt can work, but if the season goes awry, it’s widely believed the Celtics will make a strong run at Davis, who is under contract through 2020.

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry laughed at those who would believe they might pry AD away from NOLA. “No,” said Gentry. “Let me tell you, I learned a long time ago — and this is my 28th year in the league — that you don’t trade great for good, no matter how many you get. Having one great player really makes your team better than having three good players. And they’ve proven that. I can go all the way back to the Charles Barkley trade (from Philadelphia to Phoenix for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry) and the Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) trade (from Milwaukee with Walt Wesley to the Lakers for Dave Meyers, Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters and Len Elmore).

“Obviously it’s a franchise-defining moment really,” said Gentry, who signed on with the Pelicans after winning a ring as an assistant coach with the Warriors in 2015. “You get one of the five best players in the league, in my opinion, for sure who’s saying that ‘I want to be in New Orleans.’ He could have easily waited and become a free agent. He’s saying he wants to be in New Orleans, and he sees a future there. Now, I think, for us, we’ve just got to surround him with the proper people, because he’s locked in. He wants to have success and he wants to win and he wants to be able to do it in New Orleans. I think that says a lot for our franchise, and it says a lot about him.”

It says that he wasn’t going with the trend that has seen stars sign on to create a wagon (LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami) or join one (Kevin Durant to Golden State). “I think he’s a little bit different in that respect,” said Gentry of Davis. “I’m telling you, he’s a loyal, loyal guy. He’s a very loyal guy, He’s just a treat to coach, because you can coach him just like you coach anybody else, and he accepts that. And the thing for me that’s so defining about him is that, when we lose, he always looks at himself first and says, ‘What could I have done better? How could I help us win?’ He’ll even text me and say, ‘What should I have done better tonight?’ To be able to have a guy in a situation like that that you’re able to coach, you might be lucky to have a guy like that once.”

Around Davis, those inquiring about potential displeasure – even as far as a potential trade – are met by a strong-willed, loyal star committed to the franchise. “My desire to win here is the same,” Davis told The Vertical. “I go out there and play. I don’t care what the record is. I just go out there and play. I have to lead this team and make sure my guys are always happy and high energy. I don’t care what people say about our team. They’re not in our locker room seeing us, not part of our group. That’s all white noise. I just try to control what I can: go out there and compete.”

But I’m told the Celtics at this point are only interested in potential “game changers” on the trade market. One name to keep an eye on is New Orleans’ Anthony Davis. The only way Davis will come into play is if Davis wants out, something that isn’t that far-fetched when you consider the steady run of injuries he’s enduring on a team that’s going nowhere fast. The Celtics have draft picks galore, young talent with very team-friendly contracts and being in the East, that would mean the Pelicans would only see Davis twice a season.
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