Storyline: Anthony Davis Trade

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Anthony Davis officially a Laker

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“Anthony’s impact upon the Pelicans’ franchise and our region over the past seven seasons has been profound,” said Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin. “We are mindful and appreciative of his contributions. We are similarly appreciative of the opportunity we have as we move into the next phase of Pelicans basketball. The tremendous additions to our family that we announce here today represent the selflessness, competitive desire, and off-court character we intend build around.”

Last year, you had a front-row seat to the Anthony Davis drama and I know that can be difficult for a team to go through. Not only are you constantly being asked about it, but it’s natural for players to look over their shoulder and wonder if they might also be traded in some kind of blockbuster deal. What was it like having all of that drama and uncertainty around the Pelicans last season? Elfrid Payton: I feel like for all of us, to a certain extent, it wasn’t as bad as the media was making it seem. AD had already told us all that there was a possibility that something might happen, so it wasn’t a shock to us. We already knew. Then, the media took it and ran with it and made it bigger than it really was. They’d ask a bunch of questions, which kind of got aggravating. But, again, I just tried to remember, “They’re just doing their job.” For us, I felt like it wasn’t that big of a deal since he had told us that he may get traded.

Elfrid Payton: The only thing that was crazy was how they were like, “He needs to play in this game, but then he can miss the next game. And, when he does play, he’s only going to play 20 minutes…” That was the wildest thing for me and it’s what aggravated me the most about the entire situation. This is probably my first time saying this, but having him play some games and then miss some games and then only play 20 minutes in some games, that was hard. It’s hard to find a rhythm. And this is his job, something that he loves to do, and you’re taking it away from him. To me, it was almost like they were just teasing the guy by putting him out there for 20 minutes and then pulling him. That was the weirdest thing about the situation. I understand trying to protect your asset, but I feel like they should’ve just been able to sit him down for the whole time. You might as well play him for real or don’t play him at all, you know?

Boston: The Celtics had long been a destination possibility for Davis, but Davis and those close to him made it clear that Boston was not a preferred long-term team. Davis had no interest in playing a single game for Boston — negotiating tactic or not. The gamble would have been heavy for Boston. Still, the Celtics engaged with New Orleans over the course of the past week. They were open to discussing Jayson Tatum and the future Memphis first-round pick but not in the same offer, sources said. Celtics president Danny Ainge will always swing for a tantalizing talent, but even he had to balance the risk and reward considering the uncertain future of his free-agent star, Kyrie Irving. For months New Orleans ownership and top business officials had believed a mega offer would come from Boston. There were offers. Just not the multiple top assets that many thought would come. Tatum, or the Memphis first-rounder, is a strong piece, but not enough to top the Lakers’ overall haul.

Because of salary cap rules, if the trade is consummated in late July, the Lakers would have the space to add another maximum contract. That cap space could be used on players like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, all-star point guards who will be free agents. That scenario would require the Lakers to draft the fourth overall pick for the Pelicans, or whatever team has its rights by the time of the draft, then sign that player as quickly as possible. League rules do not allow a signed draft pick to be traded for 30 days, which would make July 20 the earliest date the trade could be consummated.
2 months ago via ESPN

Calling those discussions in February “negotiations” is a bit of a stretch. The Pelicans were never serious about dealing with the Lakers then. They didn’t like being forced into this position by Davis and his representative, Rich Paul. And they probably weren’t going to let former general manager Dell Demps make this big of a decision anyway. So the Lakers — really just Johnson, because Demps wouldn’t talk to Pelinka — would call and Demps would write names on the board without giving them any feedback. Those names would leak publicly and do damage to the Lakers’ team chemistry.

The Post reported last week the Pelicans didn’t view the Knicks’ young assets as especially attractive in comparison to other Davis suitors, feeling they needed a third team more than any other squad involved. According to an NBA source, the Knicks “weren’t close” to having a major package to entice New Orleans on a deal. The Lakers didn’t need a third team to land Davis and unite him with James, but they have, as one NBA executive put it, “mortgaged their future for a very small window with LeBron.’’

Some thought that the final iteration of the Lakers-Pelicans deal would be a three-team deal, involving New Orleans potentially forwarding along No. 4 to another team, or the Lakers spearheading things and forwarding it along to another team prior to the trade itself for a player the Pelicans valued more than the pick. Indeed, sources indicated that the Pelicans are said to have had communications with teams prior to this deal in order to gauge value on what the pick could be worth. The Pelicans think that with the pieces acquired here, in addition to Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday’s presence, they could be in the mix for a playoff spot this year despite dealing Davis for what is ostensibly a futures-based package. If they can make a move that allows them to remain flexible into the future while also getting someone that fits their longer term timeline, that would be attractive to them.

Sometimes a bettor’s timing seems too good. The Westgate in Las Vegas took a $10,000 bet on Saturday at 3 p.m. local time on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the 2020 NBA title at 5-1 odds. Twenty seven minutes later, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the New Orleans Pelicans had traded Anthony Davis to the LA Lakers to join LeBron James. “I’m sure it was with knowledge, but that’s why we have liability limits in place,” said Jeff Sherman, manager at the Westgate. The liability limit for futures was set at $50,000.


Even if Irving departs, the Celtics remain optimistic about the state of the franchise. They hold the 14th, 20th, and 22nd picks in this draft. Even though some, if not all, of those picks likely would have been shipped out in a Davis deal, sources said the pursuit of Davis did not affect the team’s draft preparations, as they carried on, business as usual. According to a league source, the Celtics will continue to explore ways to potentially use some of those picks in deals for other current players, but that nothing was imminent.
2 months ago via ESPN

The Pelicans will now have two of the top four picks in Thursday’s NBA draft — No. 1 and No. 4. New Orleans will select Zion Williamson at No. 1 and now has the flexibility to select a player at No. 4 — or trade it at auction in the next several days. New Orleans has had significant interest in talks with teams in recent days on the fourth pick, and those talks are expected to continue over the next several days, sources said. Teams are pursuing point guards Darius Garland and Coby White high in the lottery, which gives New Orleans a chance for an even bigger haul from the deal.

ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Brian Windhorst on Thursday’s episode of The Jump if Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin was using the Lakers’ offer as leverage to gain more assets from the Celtics, and Windhorst said he believed that to be the case: “I think it’s a good sign that David Griffin is shopping the No. 4 pick. That at least means he’s open to a deal with the Lakers. But I think all of this is a maneuver to draw as much as he possibly can out of the Celtics. They’ve preferred to deal with the Celtics since Dell Demps was the general manager. The Lakers’ offers haven’t changed that much. They have a higher pick, but they don’t really have different players to offer. If he really wanted to make the Lakers deal, and he really wanted the draft pick, he would’ve already made the Lakers deal.”

Should Irving leave, and the team’s bid for an Anthony Davis trade fall through, then short of moving ahead with what’s left, Danny Ainge’s creativity will be tested like never before. Though he wouldn’t share specifics, Grousbeck has admittedly heard some fairly exotic scenarios being discussed. “There’s definitely scenarios being spun inside the basketball office,” he said. “I’m there every day listening to them, that involve a number of players. I’ve heard a lot of scenarios. We’ll just see what happens.”

Durant, Leonard and Davis are the three best players available and are the only three stars the Clippers are actively pursuing. The Clippers are firmly in contention for Leonard and/or Durant, but Durant’s torn Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night — as well as Leonard’s Finals run with the Raptors and Davis’ recently revised trade list — has somewhat clouded the offseason forecast. That is compounded by the fact that missing out on the stars they want will not force the Clippers into a reactionary decision — be it a signing or trade — this offseason, league sources told The Athletic.
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