The Los Angeles Lakers will be extremely active in the market for a second superstar to play alongside LeBron James for the foreseeable future. They’ll have options, as several max players will hit free agency over the next couple years, and speculation has been swirling about one name in particular, especially since he switched agents to Rich Paul of Klutch Sports: Anthony Davis.
In a sit-down with Rachel Nichols of ESPN on “The Jump”, Davis addressed that speculation, and was crystal clear about what his priorities are:
NICHOLS: You recently switched agents, you’re now with Rich Paul who, of course, his most famous client is LeBron James. And of course as soon as that happened, everyone was like ‘A.D. to the Lakers, that’s gonna happen, A.D. is going to demand a trade to the Lakers!’ What has that been like for you to hear that from everywhere?
DAVIS: ”You hear it everywhere, and it’s funny, how do they even correlate?” (laughs)
You know how that correlates!
”Of course, but in my head I don’t pay attention to it, and I keep going back to 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 or listen to all the white noise or ‘A.D. is going here, he’s going here, he’s going here.’ A.D. is playing for the Pelicans this year. So my job is to focus on winning and helping these guys as much as possible on and off the floor, and the rest will take care of itself.”
As with any other player when asked questions like this, you have to ask yourself, what else is he going to say?
“Yes, Rachel. When I signed with Klutch sports, I also went so far as to stop stretching in the hopes of developing a lingering hamstring injury to save myself from the wear and tear that comes with carrying this organization.”
I wouldn’t hold it against Davis at all if he said that, and would probably die laughing, but that’s not going to happen. He gave the only answer he could.
That said, there is also the reality that the Pelicans could make Davis the highest-paid NBA player ever if he stays in New Orleans, something Nichols brought up:
People forget I think that the Pelicans are the team that next summer can offer you a super max contract, they could make you the highest paid player in the NBA. How important is something like that to you?
”It’s important of course, but like I said I want to win. But when that time comes, we’ll get to that point but my biggest thing is to focus on this year and help my guys. Like I said, the rest will take care of itself when the time comes.”
For a little context, this is the kind of contract Davis will be eligible for thanks to his stellar career to this point.
Anthony Davis has now met the super max criteria (All-NBA in 2 out of 3 seasons) and is eligible to sign the largest contract in NBA history next summer (2019). The extension projects to be worth $230 million with a cap hit in 2020-21 starting at $39.7 million.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) May 24, 2018
It’s really easy to sit here a full year before the decision can be made and say you’re prioritizing winning. But when all those zeroes are pushed in front of you, it’s hard not to pick up that pen and sign on the dotted line, even if that probably means signing up to spend the prime of your career with an organization that hasn’t exactly blown you away with their ability to put talent around you at this point.
As this pertains to the Lakers, well, they have to be hoping that the allure of playing alongside LeBron and contending for a title in purple and gold will give Davis such a boost in brand recognition that he makes up for the money he’d be leaving on the table off the basketball court.
There’s also the chance that over the course of his time with the Lakers, Davis becomes the face of the franchise as he reaches the stratosphere it appears he’s heading towards while James’ game starts to slow down. And if there’s one thing we know at this point, it’s that driving forces of Lakers teams that win a title have insanely fruitful careers. Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal are all either at billionaire status or heading in that direction. We know money is a legitimate priority here. The Lakers are very good at getting their players that kind of thing.
Speculation about Davis to L.A. is not going to stop until he signs, well, anywhere. Maybe a trade takes place (in which case the Lakers should offer just about anyone and everyone, in my opinion). Maybe the Pelicans shock the world and do the kind of winning Davis has in mind here. There’s just no way to know what’s coming next. But this is going to be one at the very top of storylines to watch moving forward.