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Rob Pelinka says he wasn’t sure the Anthony Davis trade would get done, even on the day of the deal, but felt Lakers owed it to LeBron James to make it happen

Rob Pelinka says the Lakers almost weren’t able to pull off the Anthony Davis trade, but his commitment to LeBron James hammered home just how critical the deal was.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Anthony Davis is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers now, and even has one preseason game already under his belt. According to Rob Pelinka, that almost didn’t happen.

Pelinka told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that even on the day that the trade was agreed to, he had his doubts as to whether the Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans could reach some common ground:

“The day that it was completed, I remember there were a number of hurdles that seemed insurmountable that came up where we thought this just is never going to happen.”

Griffin, who had parted ways with the Cavs just days before Kyrie Irving requested a trade out of Cleveland, had ruminated for some time on how he would have handled that situation. Now that he was in the driver’s seat with Davis, he was intent on leveraging a killer deal.

”Literally the day that the trade happened,” Pelinka says, “there were a couple points I was convinced that there would be no further conversations.”

I would absolutely love to know more in-detail about what was holding up the trade, even as it went down. We know now given the context of how few other teams were involved in their own negotiations with New Orleans that the Lakers’ eventual package felt like a bit of an overpay, even for Davis, but which specific hurdles Pelinka was concerned about would be fascinating to learn about.

Who among Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart was hardest to part with? Where did Kyle Kuzma reside in terms of prioritization among the aforementioned newest Pelicans? Were the complicated pick swaps part of the hold-up? How close were the Lakers to getting to keep any other young players or picks? What was the final piece that got the deal done? Oh, and about that trade processing date...

Still, at the end of the day, Pelinka knew he owed it not just to the people in the Lakers organization who employ him and Lakers fans everywhere to acquire Davis, but that he also owed it to LeBron James:

“When a player of LeBron’s stature puts his trust in the organization,” Pelinka says, “I think there’s an implicit bilateral trust going back saying: ‘We’re going to do everything we can to put you in a position to win more championships, because that’s what you’re about.’”

Pelinka’s tone here is not new. He often talks about the mutually beneficial relationship and responsibilities that come from working with a player of James’ level. It’s where he most sounds like a former agent.

But really, this is how you gain respect in the NBA. Not just the respect of the superstars Pelinka is currently working with (first James, and now Davis), but also any the Lakers might hope to sign come future free agency periods. By all accounts, stars in the NBA love to talk to each other (maybe even too much, according to the NBA), and you can rest assured that however the Lakers treat Davis and James will make its way through the grapevine as stars start to contemplate their future. It also may help the team keep Davis this summer.

Is this approach to dealing with superstars the end-all, be-all when they make their decisions on where to sign? Of course not. Otherwise, the Lakers wouldn’t have ever been passed up on by anyone. But in a league dominated by player movement and superstar empowerment, Pelinka’s approach with James heading into the trade, and now Davis, too, looks set to pay dividends.

There are complaints to be made with Pelinka. Hell, the mere fact he made it through allegedly backstabbing Magic Johnson and kept his job despite potential interest from some of the league’s top executives is going to go down as one of the great what-ifs in sports history. But he is still responsible for uniting LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and he seems to understand how to make and keep them happy. Things could be worse.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. Yell at the author on Twitter @AnthonyIrwinLA.

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