Anthony Davis wants out of the Big Easy. Kristaps Porzingis is now leaving the Big Apple for Big D, taking his talents from Gotham to the Dallas Mavericks in a blockbuster deal. And with the Super Bowl just a mere two days away, it is the NBA and it’s biggest star in LeBron James (who hasn’t played in over a month since Christmas due to a lingering groin injury) and the most glamorous franchise that is the Los Angeles Lakers dominating the headlines this week. Talk about real power and influence, eh?
The 2019 NBA Trade Deadline is one week away on February 7th (at 3PM EST to be exact), and the past few days along with the next seven are going to be filled with more drama, speculation, and perhaps a few more power shifts before the second half of the season kicks off after the All-Star game two weeks from now in Charlotte.
This week got off to a raucous start with one of the NBA’s worst kept secrets becoming official public knowledge: Anthony Davis, the best player on the New Orleans Pelicans and now fellow Klutch Sports client, wants out of New Orleans and to be traded to a contender. Davis, who is averaging 29.3 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 2.6 BPG and has the best PER in the league at 31.0, is a top-5, all-NBA caliber player who is frustrated with management and the direction of the team after the Pelicans made a surprising run to the Wester Conference Semifinals last season with a 4-0 sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. And after not re-signing either DeMarcus Cousins or Rajon Rondo (who signed with the Warriors and Lakers, respectively), the writing on the wall of his imminent departure became much more apparent.
In the eyes of many, this was just a foregone conclusion. Once Anthony Davis signed with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports last year, who also represent LeBron James, who also when asked last month if he would love to be teammates with Davis with a resounding response of “Duh”, it seems that the breadcrumbs and dominoes left in place and that are falling seem to be coming to the forefront.
However, if there is any precedent with previous disgruntled superstar players that had ties to joining the Lakers (see Paul George and Kawaii Leonard), many NBA executives are reluctant and disinterested in helping the Lakers build the next super team. Dell Demps, the current general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans and former Spurs protege under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich, didn’t answer an initial phone call from Lakers president and general manager Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.
As of today, he has now spoken to them about “five different trade scenarios” including everyone on the Lakers roster minus LeBron James, but Popovich has urged Demps not to “cave in” to the Lakers demands and objectives to appease pairing James with a legitimate second option just for the sake of doing so. (This stems back over a decade ago to 2008 when the Memphis Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers for a very underwhelming package at the time; gotta love that the Lakers/Spurs rivalry is still fresh albeit being off the court.)
But speaking of long-time rivalries, an even longer one of the Lakers is of course the Boston Celtics, who have also had an ongoing infatuation for Anthony Davis for nearly two years now. They, too, have a plethora of intriguing assets both with current young players of Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier (along with Gordon Hayward who is still coming back from that devastating injury he had in the 2017 NBA opener) along with a stockpile of draft picks that include their own plus future ones from the Grizzlies, Clippers and Kings.
Although this collection of assets is arguably better than what the Lakers can offer, the Celtics cannot make a deal until July 1st due to an obscure “designated rookie maximum extension” rule in the current CBA that both Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis are currently playing on (this can change when Irving will most likely opt-out of after this season).
There is also the fickle and eccentric behavior (including his “flat earth” theory) of Kyrie Irving to keep in mind as well; even though he implied interest to resign with Boston if they wanted him during a preseason pep rally, he has also been rumored to want to pair back up with LeBron again or perhaps play for one of his hometown teams in either the Knicks or Nets. He has called out teammates in a rather passive-aggressive manner over this season and has alluded to his situation with the Cavaliers before his departure, confirming that he had to call LeBron and apologize for how he handled everything towards the end. Nonetheless, Uncle Drew is a phenomenal talent and whatever team he ends up playing after this year will be thrilled to have them on their roster.
But now we have new players entering into the mix of the NBA vortex trade chaos and upsetting the complicated love triangle of the Lakers/Celtics/Pelicans for the time being, with the Knicks trading Porzingis along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan.
It made me ask these two questions: how did this deal happen so quickly in comparison to the Anthony Davis saga, and why didn’t the New Orleans talk to the Knicks about swapping their disgruntled star players for each other?
According to reports, the owner of the Pelicans Gayle Benson wasn’t interested in Porzingis, which in hindsight makes sense due to him coming off an ACL injury along with his previous spats with Knicks management over the past couple of years. If they were reluctant to re-sign Boogie Cousins after his achilles injury and previous off-court drama, they wouldn’t want any part of another injured All-Star doing the same thing. On top of that, the Pelicans have a top-down NFL organizational structure in place, and they are defiant on not giving in to Davis’ trade demand (especially to the Lakers with the wounds of the Saints playoff defeat against the Rams still fresh in everyone’s minds).
But back to the Mavericks, teaming up Porzingis with Doncic should be fun to watch over the next few years if he comes back to full strength after his first All-Star season was cut short last year. New York has also positioned themselves much like the Lakers did last year with this trade by clearing enough cap space to sign two marquee free agents this offseason. Whether or not the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and/or Kemba Walker will call Madison Square Garden home next season remains to be seen, but they are hitting the reset button in hopes to land a combination of these top players along with Zion in the draft.
The NBA has always been a collection of many kingdoms. Bill Russell’s Celtics of the 1960’s; Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics of the 1980’s; Jordan’s Bulls of the 1990’s; The Shaq/Kobe Lakers of the early 2000’s; The Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan led Spurs teams; the Golden State Warriors of the 2010’s.
Will the team that lands Anthony Davis become the next one in the 2020’s? Or will it only be a pyrrhic victory by giving too much to get him? And will one form in Dallas with their new unicorn now in place?
Regardless of the outcomes of these power shifts, the NBA has taken over the headlines of the biggest sporting event of the year in the Super Bowl. That right there is a win in itself.
Long live the NBA kings.