Considering how developments have unfolded in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, it has become eminently clear that he’s determined to move to the Lakers, and fast. Yesterday, news of his transmittal of the short list of four teams he’s willing to play for exploded in hoops circles, seemingly an indication of his expansion of options. In truth, however, it was a crafty chess move designed to make the Pelicans green-light his departure for the purple and gold before the trade deadline. After all, amenability is one thing, and desire is quite another.
Make no mistake. Davis would be happy suiting up for the Knicks, Bucks, and Clippers, franchises in varied situations and presenting unique sets of opportunities for his career. That said, he would be happiest plying his trade with the Lakers, whom he also knows possess the most number of assets the Pelicans can acquire in exchange for his freedom. Each of the others can come up with offers in the next couple of days, but, even with other parties involved, will not be able to top that which is already on the table.
The Pelicans aren’t stupid, of course, and know there are alternatives to doing a deal pronto. The best-case scenario has the rest of the National Basketball Association engaging in a bidding war for Davis’s services, with the talent-rich Celtics coming through on a promise to break the bank in the process. To counter the possibility, the perennial All-Star has made known in no uncertain terms that he will not sign a long-term deal with the green and white, effectively making him an expensive — make that extremely expensive — one-year rental. For good measure, he even had his father speak about the organization’s lack of loyalty to stalwarts as evidenced by the rough treatment erstwhile star Isaiah Thomas received.
Taken in this context, Davis’ additions of the Knicks, Bucks, and Clippers to his roll of preferred destinations are, in fact, aimed at painting the Lakers as the best trade partners from the Pelicans’ standpoint. And, to be fair, the upgraded offer of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and two first-round draft picks for him and the expensive contract of Solomon Hill is a rich one that only the Celtics have the wherewithal to top. The bad news is that he’s racing against time, and his gambit will no longer lead to checkmate once the calendar flips to next week.
At this point, there is every indication that the Pelicans would rather wait until the end of the season to offload Davis. They believe, with reason, that the Lakers’ proposed deal will still be available for the taking at a time when they will likewise be presented with the Celtics’ own trove. The flipside is the weight of uncertainty they will be carrying for the remainder of their 2018-19 campaign. There is benefit in not letting a wound fester, and how much they value that benefit figures to inform their decision at the trade deadline.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.