CHARLOTTE — Anthony Davis stepped to the podium in Charlotte, surrounded by more than 20 reporters and did something that surprised nearly everyone.
He spoke about his situation. And while he dodged it a bit, he never declined to comment.
Despite the swirling reports about Davis’ preferences, his next destination and his desire to be elsewhere, he waited until the most public possible setting to start rattling off reasons, locations and possibilities as questions kept rushing at him throughout the first 16 minutes of his mandatory All-Star Game media session.
At one point, Davis was receiving so many inquiries about his future, and answering them so openly, an NBA representative stepped to Davis’ side and demanded the rest of his session would be dedicated to the banal All-Star nonsense that these events are usually fueled by.
But, in those first 16 minutes, Davis said enough.
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It was highlighted by him claiming the Boston Celtics were on his “list” of preferred destinations, refuting his own father, who just weeks ago claimed Davis had no interest in playing for Boston.
Later, when pressed on the issue, he responded with rapid fire and clear confidence.
“I never said Boston wasn’t on my list,” Davis said. "I never said they was not on my list. I never said they was not on my list.”
He also made comments about the perks of potentially playing for the Knicks, and mentioned he fully intends to finish the season in a Pelicans uniform, regardless of the icy reception he’s faced and the bizarre nature of his desire to stay on a team he’s already decided to leave.
“My job is to play basketball,” Davis said. "The fans can have whatever opinion they want. Hopefully it’s a good opinion, but if not, I’ll understand.”
Ultimately, Davis receives a modicum of credit for just addressing these situations as they are, especially when rumors and intentional leaks have dominated everything about this awkward limbo stage where Davis currently resides.
“I’m just keeping it real, to be honest,” Davis said. “I knew that’s all you guys wanted to talk about. I just stated how I feel, stated my intentions, and we’ll go on from there.”
Minutes later, Davis went on NBA TV, and with agent Rich Paul not-so-slyly lurking in the background, and went even further, adding a dose of confusion to the occasion.
“All 29 teams are on my list,” Davis said. “I don’t have a preferred destination. I just want to win. If it’s big market or small market, I don’t care. I want to win. Honestly, whatever team I get traded to, I’ll play for a year or whatever and then make the best of it and when free agency comes, we’ll see what happens.
“All 29 teams are on my list. I never gave a destination."
CHARLOTTE — This is the gathering of the NBA universe.
Perhaps it was a smokescreen to cover up for his earlier comments about Boston. Or it was a message he’s planning to test free agency no matter where he goes.
At this point, it’s basically impossible to tell.
But, you can believe Pelicans’ ownership and Celtics’ management heard the first message louder and clearer than the others. And as far as the future of the Pelicans is concerned, it’s the only item that matters.
While Paul and Davis scrambled to control the narrative on Boston entering the fray, it’s clear the Celtics have been given enough hope to make a fully competitive offer for Davis’ services after being shut out of the trade deadline discussions due to an NBA rule regarding Kyrie Irving and Davis’ contract designations.
And considering the Celtics’ portfolio of assets, which includes a litany of first-round picks as well as several productive young players, led by 20-year-old Jayson Tatum, it’s obvious why New Orleans’ ownership wasn’t ready to make a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline.
While the Lakers are still considerable players and have thrown a bevy of young guys into trade offers, Davis’ open desire to sign there long-term was intended to scare off all other bidders (mostly the Celtics). Now, it appears that is changing.
And with it, the future of the Pelicans could shift.
CHARLOTTE — This day was inevitable.
It also adds a laser focus onto Tatum, who also spoke to a horde of reporters on Saturday, and addressed his odd predicament as the centerpiece of trade scenarios in the midst of his second season.
“Especially right now under contract, I can’t control anything,” Tatum said nearly an hour before Davis spoke. “You learn pretty quickly, when you’re under contract you don’t have much say so.”
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Considering Davis kicked this beehive with more than a year left on his current deal, he clearly disagrees with Tatum’s assessment. And after Davis’ open dialogue took the All-Star Game by storm, the possibility of Tatum eventually heading to New Orleans just became a lot more real.
More than anything, what Saturday proved, is Davis isn’t tamping down the drama or downplaying its importance.
In some ways, this story has only just begun.