CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Anthony Davis saga has been well-orchestrated but sloppy, keenly thought out but slightly careless, and bold, if nothing else.
The storm surrounding the New Orleans Pelicans star was always missing one critical element, the one thing that would seemingly tie every loose end and end the innuendo about someone pulling his strings from the back room.
It would’ve been understandable, if not likely, to see Davis take the easy way out Saturday morning and avoid the media surge he knew was waiting for him.
His recent shoulder injury would’ve provided enough cover for the NBA to allow him to avoid his media obligations, seeing as how All-Star Weekend could have devolved into a drawn-out storyline, obscuring the actual on-court entertainment.
But he strolled out confidently and answered the firing squad with declarations of his own, presenting the appearance of a man who’s taken control of his career.
At times, he was direct. Others, confusing and inconsistent, referencing the Boston Celtics as a team he would be OK joining … and then softening his stance minutes later to say, “I never said [Boston] wasn’t on my list.”
Perhaps it was his only play, coming out and speaking frankly.
He wouldn’t allow his affection for the city of New Orleans to hold him hostage and waste precious healthy years of his remaining prime, nor did he admit to feeling stressed about telling his teammates he wanted out.
Although it creates a murky situation on the floor for the rest of the season and the merits of whether he should play or sit will be debated from now until April, he appeared unburdened.
“Big market, small market, I just want to win,” Davis said. “It really doesn’t matter about markets. It’s about the best situation for me, the best fit for me.
“I want to win, no matter where it is. It’s time for me to move forward.”
Selecting Rich Paul as his agent in September doesn’t automatically mean his wishes will come second to LeBron James’ — although that’s a notion he had to consider the public would think when making this move. Paul moves strategically and transparently — there are very few surprises, but it doesn’t mean his presence makes a situation untoward. Nor does it make him the villain and Davis some naive flower, ripe for manipulation.
Having the Los Angeles Lakers on Davis’ list of preferred teams is hardly a thought that would have to be cooked up by Paul and James — especially considering how involved Davis’ father, Anthony Davis Sr., is in helping guide his steps.
Davis, it appears, took steps in writing his own story Saturday. Up to this point, his wishes have been subject to interpretation as opposed to seeing what’s in plain sight.
“I had a plan and stick to follow that plan, did what I was supposed to do,” Davis said. “I knew it was a chance [a trade] wasn’t gonna happen, because the Pelicans had to make their decision. Nothing happened, and I’m still here, playing basketball until the end of the season.”
And considering the way the Pelicans have botched personnel situations over the past several years, it’s not irrational to think the organization would have one final mishap in their bag — trading Davis too early simply because he demanded it.
His shoulder injury feels like a microcosm of this entire situation, with him leaving with Paul to get an MRI setting in motion the events that led to GM Dell Demps’ firing the next day. Demps didn’t notify coach Alvin Gentry that Davis had left before Gentry’s postgame media session, creating the appearance of confusion over what should’ve been simple communication.
It felt like another embarrassing morsel of nonsense on top of an already stale cookie. Davis wasn’t a perpetrator, but merely a mirror into what ails the organization and what lessons it will have to learn as he prepares to walk out the door.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Davis said about Demps’ firing. “The Pelicans have to do what’s best for them. My intentions are still the same. No matter who the GM is, it’s still the same.”
It puts into focus the original thought: generational player, seven years, one playoff series win.
The Pelicans mishandled his entire tenure. It’s hard to name a franchise that has done less with a player who’s capable of doing so much. For as much flak as Kevin Durant took in leaving Oklahoma City, the Thunder reached an NBA Finals and multiple conference finals, yet there was an understanding among rational folks that Durant was justified in wanting out.
So when Davis says he’s open to 29 other teams, even in jest, it illustrates how woeful he feels things are with his current employer.
Davis has no reason to stay, and his biggest sin in this was giving the Pelicans three regular-season months before admitting out loud what he likely knew to be true over the summer.
“He’s in a small market and the team’s not doing very well, he’d like to go out and win something,” Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told Yahoo Sports recently about Davis. “He’s made a lot of money to this point and his needs are different and the clock is ticking, so I understand what he’s all about.”
Abdul-Jabbar famously forced himself out of Milwaukee and to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975, with many drawing the natural comparisons that the potential Davis move could be the biggest trade involving a star player in his prime since then.
“I think his management people mishandled it,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “When I was leaving Milwaukee, I let them know before the season started and I kept my mouth shut. Just to give them an opportunity to make the best deal they could behind closed doors.”
Point taken, but there was no social media back then, nor are the stakes and scrutiny as high as they are now for all involved.
If nothing else, we’ve heard Davis’ voice, answering one question.
But there’s plenty yet to be answered before this drama comes to a merciful end.
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