LeBron James was, needless to say, stating the obvious when he told ESPN that pairing up with Anthony Davis “would be amazing.” And he knew it, too. “Duh,” he added. “That would be incredible.” Certainly, it’s the ideal scenario for the Lakers, who have set aside salary cap space and made personnel decisions precisely with an eye towards claiming one or two superstars in the near term. Should that happen, they’ll be ensuring their competitiveness even as their biggest offseason acquisition will be getting ahead in age through his four-year contract.
The problem, of course, is that Davis remains tied to the Pelicans until 2020, and they’ll invariably be exerting every effort to keep him in the fold. After all, he’s a perennial Most Valuable Candidate whose best years are still ahead of him. In this regard, it helps that their uniform is the only one he has worn since being drafted first overall in 2012, and that they’re in position to extend his contract for more money than any other suitor. And, so far, all his public pronouncements have given them confidence they’ll succeed in keeping him.
Unfortunately, the Pelicans haven’t been winning. In fact, they’ve been middling at best despite his otherworldly exertions. True, they made strides in the 2018 playoffs, sweeping the Blazers in convincing fashion for their first postseason series victory since 2008. On the other hand, the Warriors’ easy win over them in the West semis then proved that they don’t have the talent required to keep up with the best of the best in the National Basketball Association. And it’s exactly because he doesn’t want to waste his peak on middling campaigns that the notion of teaming up with fellow greats holds significant appeal.
To be sure, all and sundry know it’s too early to speculate on where Davis will end up. Nonetheless, rumors have been swirling, and other suitors, the Celtics included, are ready to camp on his doorstep. It’s why the Pelicans have been compelled to say no, and emphatically. As head coach Alvin Gentry argued, “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.” Then again, the situation’s out of their hands. It’s in his. And for the Lakers, the smiles on their faces emanate from more than just his hiring of a new agent, who just so happens to have a close relationship with James.
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Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.