Strap on your goggles. Slip on your flippers.
New Orleans Pelicans’ fans, you’re about to be inundated with Anthony Davis trade talk.
As if Friday night’s 9:30 p.m. tipoff against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers wasn’t enough of a storyline setup, the game is broadcast on ESPN and comes in the midst of New Orleans’ most mediocre month.
But, before tuning in, keep this in mind.
Focus always gravitates toward the stars.
Based on multiple sources, the Pelicans have no intention of trading Davis this season. By all current indications, the superstar will have to expressly turn down a five-year, $239 million offer that would make him the richest player in NBA history.
It’s nearly $35 million more than he can get anywhere else. And if Davis decides to decline it, only then will this whole conversation cross the line from possibility to reality.
That’s not until July. But, be prepared.
Because it won’t sound like a possibility in the reporting and broadcasting emanating from the Staples Center on Friday.
There will be a sense of inevitability to the whole proceeding. Ever since James took the opportunity this week to openly pine about potentially playing next to Davis, the chatter has kicked into overdrive on social media and beyond.
Segments upon segments devoted to Davis’ future.
When will AD be traded? Who will the Lakers give up?
How do LeBron and AD match up against the Golden State Warriors?
For many here it will be confusing. For some it will be frustrating.
Boiled down to its essence, this New Orleans Pelicans’ season is a beauty contest.
Just seven months ago, Davis was the toast of New Orleans. The team’s late-season vault into the playoffs and subsequent sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers captured the interest of the region, filling the Smoothie King Center and garnering the nation’s second-best local TV ratings for ESPN’s playoff broadcasts.
It appeared something was building. How, suddenly, does it feel gone?
This is the NBA in 2018-19 and enough superstars have moved locations for the whole world to preemptively predict the next sequence in the pattern. And over the past 32 games, this is the position the Pelicans put themselves in.
By tallying a disappointing 15-17 record, it quickly pivoted the conversation from possible contention into unwilling trade partner. By nearly every analyst’s perception the Pelicans are currently an underdog to retain Davis past this season.
"I don't really care," Davis told ESPN’s Zach Lowe on Wednesday night, responding to James' comments. "Obviously, it's cool to hear any high-caliber player say they want to play with me. But my job is to turn this team around. If we're 15-17, that means I'm not doing my job."
Anthony Davis can sense the New Orleans Pelicans are close.
Davis has openly said he wants to win, and win big, and right now it’s hard to see him foraging that path in New Orleans before July. While only Davis can decide which direction he’s headed, the cacophony of conjecture is growing, and it’s painted a clear narrative to this season.
On Friday, the roars for Davis from Lakers fans will add even more color to the conversation.
Just remember it holds no real-world implications at the moment.
Instead, it’s far more likely the Pelicans are a buyer than a seller over the next six weeks in the trade market. Sources confirmed general manager Dell Demps is dutifully trying to bolster his roster in an attempt to make noise in this year’s playoffs.
The Pelicans want to tempt Davis into re-signing by giving him a championship vision. And the only way to do it is by winning this season.
They have no choice. However, it keeps getting harder to fathom.
How long can this go on?
Each passing loss not only fuels speculation about Davis’ future, it tangibly increases the degree of difficulty for keeping him.
"When that time comes, of course we will see," Davis told ESPN’s Lowe. “I love my teammates. I love New Orleans. I love the fans. I talk their slang. I love their food.”
But all of that pales in comparison to the vision of winning a championship. And the Pelicans — who are slogging through injuries to Elfrid Payton, Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle — don’t look anything like a championship team currently.
So where do they go now?
Even if Demps strikes out on the trade market and can’t make an impactful move, the Pelicans aren’t going to deal Davis. There’s belief in the organization New Orleans can still right itself, if this current version of the roster is healthy and clicking.
And if it all falls apart before the Feb. 7 trade deadline?
It still makes no sense to deal Davis to the Lakers this season. Potentially greater offers will be seen in the summer, particularly from the Boston Celtics, who are handcuffed from acquiring Davis until Kyrie Irving re-signs with them this summer.
And even if Davis sheds his good-guy persona and demands a trade to join James, there’s no reason for New Orleans to accommodate it in the short term. The Pelicans are under no obligation to meet those needs, regardless if Davis claims he won’t sign an extension with their trade partner.
The Spurs dealt Kawhi Leonard to Toronto, where he didn’t want to go. The Pacers sent Paul George to Oklahoma City, where he didn’t want to go.
Forgive the New Orleans Pelicans for not panicking.
This is all to say there are a myriad of options and more divergent paths awaiting the next eight months than Friday’s spectacle will lead Pelicans’ fans to believe.
Anthony Davis to the Lakers is a distinct possibility, but it’s one of many potential destinations awaiting the future. So, ignore the chatter for now and realize there are simply no answers to be given at the moment.
No matter how inevitable it’s all portrayed.