Anthony Davis has repeatedly expressed loyalty to the Pelicans amid their turmoil.
This is the most doubt I’ve ever heard him cast about his future in New Orleans.
Boston has remained vigilant on the possibility of acquiring Davis, and Davis knows it. However, the Pelicans have no intention of trading an all-world talent under contract through 2021, no matter the return.
Before the Cousins trade a year ago, though, Davis kept hearing talk of the Celtics trying to trade for him. He walked into GM Dell Demps’ office and asked about it.
“He told me that [Boston] was calling, but nothing was going to happen,” Davis said. “At the same time, though, you see how organizations treat players. Isaiah Thomas. DeMarcus [Cousins] told me that the [Kings] told him that he wasn’t going to get traded, but they traded him. Isaiah took his team to the Eastern Conference finals, and they traded him.
“It makes you wonder: Does this organization really have my back? I’ve been loyal to this organization. I love it here. I love this team. I think we’re moving in the right direction. DeMarcus, Rondo, some other players that are helping us, but people get judged on winning. And I want to win.
“You look at the Warriors, Cleveland, Boston,” he said. “They lose Gordon [Hayward], they’re still playing well. KD-Steph-Draymond-Klay. They play so well with each other. They move the basketball. They don’t care who scores. Steph and Draymond are out, and they still won. KD is out. They still win.
“That’s the way the league is now. I don’t see anyone winning without three or four All-Stars. … I was in the [MVP] conversation in my third year, and we didn’t win. We went to the playoffs, got swept, and I dropped out of all that so fast. It’s about winning. You can have all the numbers in the world, but you better win. That’s what it is. This whole league, everything is about winning. Every award. Everything. It’s all about winning.”
Davis is finally flexing his muscles. He has the clout to demand more from the Pelicans, but he has been passive in exercising it.
The result: New Orleans has missed the playoffs in four of his five full seasons and not won a single postseason game with him. The Pelicans are 15-15 this year, trying to claw into the playoffs, where they’d likely lose early.
New Orleans miraculously got Davis a second star last season in DeMarcus Cousins. How the Pelicans get the third, let alone fourth, star Davis covets is anyone’s guess. New Orleans has squandered years of first-round picks. With Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans are unlikely to draft high enough to get another blue-chip prospect. Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore are fine players but unlikely to develop into stars, though their salaries (and Solomon Hill‘s and Omer Asik‘s) will keep New Orleans from pursuing star free agents.
Meanwhile, the clock ticks toward Davis’ 2020 player option.
I believe Davis preference is to win in New Orleans, and this interview is an attempt to pressure the Pelicans into making that happen. But what if he ultimately decides he must choose between winning and New Orleans? I don’t know which he’d pick, though the history of stars in his position suggests winning is the more likely priority.
Unfortunately for Davis, I’m not sure what the Pelicans can do anymore. They’re somewhat locked into this middling team. But if they have a way to upgrade his supporting cast, this warning-shot interview ought to kick them into high gear.