Anthony Davis’ one shining moment came in New Orleans nearly seven years ago, but the self-professed most dominant player in the NBA hasn’t come within a full-court heave of the top of the mountain since cutting down the nets with his Kentucky teammates inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after winning the 2012 national championship.
And in Davis’ mind, the clock has finally run out the chance to reach it in a New Orleans Pelicans uniform.
On Friday, the all-star big man spoke to the media for the first time since his trade demands were made public Monday morning, and the simple explanation he repeated six times in nearly 14 minutes rested more on himself than anything the Pelicans have done in the past or could do to appease him down the road.
“I feel like it’s my time,” Davis said at the Pelicans practice facility. “I gave the city, organization, fans everything I felt like I could. I don’t know how long I’m going to play this game. People’s careers are short, so I feel like it’s my time to move on.
“I feel like I’m in my prime right now. I’m playing at an elite level, and I think that I want to make sure I take advantage of that.”
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In Davis’ eyes, the best opportunity to do so no longer resides in New Orleans. He insisted the focus of his decision centered solely around himself and his best interests, rather than the failure of the Pelicans to surround the seven-year pro with a stable, successful and healthy enough roster to consistently compete with the powers in the Western Conference.
And the extra $89 million and additional year of contract stability Davis could have secured by signing a super-max contract extension with the team, in comparison to any deal the rest of the NBA could offer this summer wasn’t enough to offset the consistent postseason success, possible Larry O’Brien Championship Trophies and potential lucrative endorsement deals Davis could secure elsewhere in a bigger, more successful market.
“I’m all about the legacy,” he said. “The money comes and goes, but when I’m done playing or leave this earth, what is my legacy going to be?”
Davis continues to sit out with a finger injury he suffered six games ago and said Friday he hopes to be reevaluated in the coming days as his health has improved, but the Pelicans have taken several steps to distance themselves from the superstar since his wishes were made public.
Though he’s under contract for another year-and-a-half, the team removed Davis from his prominent role in their pregame hype video that ran during Wednesday’s home game for the first time since his demands. His jersey also couldn’t be found in the team’s official store in the Smoothie King Center.
“It’s nothing I can control. The team had something in mind, and then went with it. I don’t think it was supposed to be like that, from what I was told, but there’s nothing I can really do about it,” Davis said about the video. “But like I said, I’m still under contract with this team. I’m still going to go out there and help these guys, my teammates. Until I get traded, I’m under contract.”
That much is indeed true, and it reflects the initial message Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry sounded during Monday’s media availability, that anyone healthy on his roster would play going forward. But he walked that back before Wednesday’s game.
“That’s a hard thing to answer,” Gentry said Wednesday on if Davis would ever play in a Pelicans uniform again. “I don’t really know how to answer that, really. I assume that he will. That’s something that obviously is going to have to be discussed in seeing what’s best for him and what’s best for our team.”
Friday, the coach was even more noncommittal to the idea of Davis playing with the team during their remaining 30 games in the 2018-19 campaign.
“I didn’t say he wouldn’t play, and I did not say he would play,” he clarified. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
“That decision will be made when the time comes.”
Davis repeated multiple times Friday that he has every intention to return to the court once his finger heals, keeping himself within his team and the league’s good graces after he was fined this week for publicly demanding a trade.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business. You know, if that’s what they want to do, they have every right to do it,” Davis said in response to the idea of the Pelicans deciding to sit him the rest of the season to preserve his health and lucrative trade value. “But I just want to let them know that when I’m ready to play and able to play, I want to do that.”
As Davis explained, he and his representation informed the Pelicans front office late last week of his plans to not sign a contract extension this offseason and his wishes to be traded before his current deal expires — something he and his agent, Rich Paul, planned to keep private.
According to Davis, someone with knowledge of the conversation leaked it to members of the media, who reached out to Paul on Monday to confirm the rumor's authenticity. In speaking on the record on behalf of his client, Paul incurred a $50,000 fine on Davis from the league.
“We didn’t want to leak it to the media. We wanted to do it in-house, but that wasn’t on us,” he said.
Davis also asserted that neither he nor Paul, who represents and is childhood best friends with Lakers star LeBron James, made any demand on which team would land him in a trade, though it’s widely speculated Davis wishes to end up in Los Angeles to play alongside James, whether it be this season, or after Davis’ current contract expires at the end of next season. This offseason, he bought a $7.5 million mansion in Westlake Village outside Los Angeles.
Though he said the prospect of requesting a trade has been on his mind for some time, Davis said the final decision didn’t come this past week. But he felt he owed it to Pelicans owner Gayle Benson and the franchise who drafted him to inform them more than a week before the Feb. 7 trade deadline, in order to give them enough time to weigh their options to either move Davis immediately to an immediate suitor like the Lakers or wait until the offseason.
Reports surfaced Thursday that the Pelicans have been in touch with Lakers brass, who have laid out as many as five potential offers to acquire Davis.
Once Celtics guard Kyrie Irving is no longer playing under a Designated Player Rookie Extension at the conclusion of the season and becomes an unrestricted free agent, Boston could offer what is widely believed to be the best potential deal for the Pelicans star.
“I never gave them a timetable. I never game them a destination,” he said. “The Pelicans have given me nothing but respect, Ms. Benson and the entire organization, so I feel like I needed to do the same thing for them. I wanted to do it now for the simple fact that they can make the best decision for the organization.”
If the Pelicans can’t agree to a trade by the deadline at 2 p.m. Thursday, the Pelicans’ wisest move may be to come to an agreement with Davis and sit him for the remainder of the regular season. There, he’ll have to undergo several more rounds of boos and heckling, which he endured Wednesday until leaving the bench in the fourth quarter during the team’s 105-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
But even with his decision to move on from the city and franchise that became his first NBA home seven years ago, he hopes the city will, in time, remember him fondly.
“I feel the fans and the community will always love me, I hope,” he said. “I can’t read people’s minds, but when you play for a team for seven years, I’ve done so much for this city. This will always be home. I’ll always have a place in my heart for this city and its fans.”
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