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Three key moments to watch in upcoming Anthony Davis trade drama

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Anthony Davis will be traded. Before next season.

Just because it didn’t happen at the trade deadline last week — as Davis, his agent Rich Paul, and the Lakers wished and pushed for — doesn’t mean the Pelicans will keep him into next training camp. New Orleans understands it needs to get as much back for Davis as it can to help jumpstart a rebuild, and the Pelicans believed they could get a better deal this off-season than they could in February.

Now what happens?

First, Davis plays the rest of the season for the Pelicans. He’ll have reduced minutes, likely sitting out back-to-backs, and those things could hurt his All-NBA/post-season awards status a little. However, that’s the only real price — so long as Davis stays healthy. Everyone involved will just hold their breath every time he steps on the court, hoping he avoids injury.

After that, there are three key moments to watch.

1) The NBA Draft Lottery on May 14. There is a potential franchise-changing star at the top of this draft in Duke’s Zion Williamson. After that, there’s a drop off in talent and questions about the guys next on most draft boards — R.J. Barrett (Duke), Ja Morant (Murray State), Nassir Little (North Carolina), Cam Reddish (Duke) — which means the Pelicans may not be wowed by pick No. 3 or No. 5 (unless they fall in love with one of those players).

If the team that wins the draft lottery is potentially willing to deal the pick — we’re looking at you, New York Knicks — the Pelicans will listen. Most likely, especially with the new, flattened out lottery odds, the winner of the lottery will be a team that would keep it (Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta) but the Pelicans are interested to see the lottery outcome and how it could impact the offers coming their way.

2) The Eastern Conference playoffs. So much of July’s free agency could hinge on the taste left in players’ mouths by the postseason. For example, Kawhi Leonard may feel very differently about staying in Toronto if the Raptors make it through to the NBA Finals than if the team is bounced in the second round.

In the Davis saga, this becomes mostly about the Boston Celtics. The Celtics lobbied the Pelicans to wait, not to trade Davis at the deadline, to give them a chance to get in on the bidding and fulfill GM Danny Ainge’s dream scenario of pairing Davis with Kyrie Irving. Talk to front office people/scouts around the league and they believe almost to a man the Celtics can put together the best offer the Pelicans will see. (Some Lakers’ fans push back on this idea every time I write it, I will tell you what I’ve heard from sources in the league: Jayson Tatum is higher rated because of his potential than any Laker youngster, the Memphis pick is not only more valuable than any Laker pick it could be the second-best asset offered to New Orleans, and most have Jaylen Brown right in the mix with the Lakers Lonzo Ball/Brandon Ingram/Kyle Kuzma core.)

However, Ainge’s dream of pairing Irving with Davis only works if Irving stays and re-signs with Boston this summer. Ainge is confident it will happen, but he’s on an island with that one. The Celtics have played like individuals, Irving has called out his young teammates for not sacrificing enough of their games (while he has sacrificed almost nothing in terms of shots and usage rate), and rumors persist around the league that Irving wants to join Kevin Durant in New York. If Irving leaves the Celtics the calculus changes for Ainge — he probably can’t put Tatum in any offer. And that makes it difficult to put together a clear best offer.

Bottom line: If Irving is frustrated and disgruntled and wants out of Boston, the Lakers and everyone else are in the game. (And everyone else could now include the Los Angeles Clippers, who can put together a package based around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lou Williams, plus a bunch of first round picks, including the Miami 2021 unprotected pick. That might tempt New Orleans.)

3) Can the Lakers make a trade to get back in the Davis game? Will they need to? From the day it was leaked Davis had asked for a trade out of New Orleans, sources with an understanding of the Pelicans’ thinking told me the Pelicans were not going to rush the process. They would be patient. One part of it was they liked the idea of multiple bidders getting involved. Another part was they didn’t want to feel pushed and bullied into a trade.

Another aspect was the Pelicans were not that high on the Lakers’ young players — they were good, but not as good as the Pelicans wanted.

After the season ends for the Lakers, they may quietly explore a trade that could send some of those young players out to bring back someone the Pelicans’ value more highly. Who is that? Likely someone we don’t know is available. However, if there is a mystery “team X” that highly values Ball or Ingram, and a pick gets thrown in the trade, it works for our mystery team. If the Lakers can add a couple better first-round picks it might help, too.

And it might not matter.

The Pelicans are going to do what they believe is best for the franchise this summer — and that could mean changing general managers, bringing in a new front office for Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the front office to negotiate with. What that new front office is looking to get back in a trade, and how they value certain players, could vary from the people the Lakers have been negotiating with so far.

Which means there’s just a lot of uncertainty around the coming Anthony Davis trade.

We’re all just trying to read the tea leaves. Which is why we’ll be watching these three areas closely.

Marcus Morris on Celtics: ‘When I look at us I see a bunch of individuals’

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The Boston Celtics have been a disappointment much of the season — not terrible by any means, but not “team to beat in the East” good, which many pundits projected them to be (*raises hand*). It led to a lot of speculation about what has gone wrong — too many good players all looking for touches and shots, not sacrificing for the team, was the conventional wisdom — and why weren’t the players all pulling the rope in the same direction?

Then the Celtics seemed to hit their stride, won 9-of-10 in January into early February, they were moving up in the East standings… but a defeat to the Lakers at home Friday, where Boston led by 18 in the first half but couldn’t knock L.A. out and lost on a buzzer beater, seemed to burst that bubble.

Saturday night it got uglier yet — a blown 28 point lead to the Clippers that ended in another loss. Kyrie Irving did leave the game with a sprained knee, but this was more than that, and Celtics fans knew it as they booed the team off the court.

Veteran Marcus Morris tried to put his finger on what has gone wrong, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“I watch all these other teams in the league, they’re jumping on the court, all the stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammates’ success. And they’re playing together, and they’re playing to win. When I look at us I see a bunch of individuals.”

That’s a punch to the gut.

And he’s right.

There is no joy in Boston’s game, something Morris said multiple times. Maybe it goes back to Irving calling out the young core earlier in the season. Maybe it’s those young guys — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier — believing they deserve a bigger role after the playoffs last season only to be forced into a smaller box because Irving is back. Maybe the idea they could be traded for Anthony Davis or another star weighs on them.

Whatever it is, the Celtics are running out of season to figure it out.

So what has to change?

“The goal has to be to win; the bottom line,” he said. “We have to play to win. That’s sacrificing, playing hard; that’s sacrificing, being a better teammate. That’s sacrificing, whatever it is we have to put it to the side. No one’s getting traded. The trade deadline is over. We’re competing for a championship and that’s how we have to approach the game. Win, lose or draw, you’re gonna lose games. But we don’t have no attitude, we don’t have no toughness. We ain’t having fun. It’s gonna be a long season.”

 

 

Rudy Gobert, Tobias Harris among notable 2019 NBA All-Star snubs

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NBA All-Stars have been released for 2019. We got the starters last week, and now the reserves have come in.

The teams will be selected by captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo on Feb. 7 on a live broadcast on TNT. Meanwhile, fans are ecstatic about the players from their favorite teams that made the All-Star game, while at the same time are angry about potential snubs.

As it happens every year — largely because of the continued requirement of a certain number of players from each conference — there appear to be several significant All-Star “snubs” and this season is no different.

The biggest is probably Rudy Gobert, who has been the defensive anchor or a Utah Jazz team that has turned their season around and is currently seventh in the West. Gobert could have easily replaced LaMarcus Aldridge or perhaps Klay Thompson, who is having a down year (at least for his standards) in Golden State.

A quick list of potential 2019 NBA All-Star snubs yields a considerable pool of considerables, including but not limited to:

Who do you think should have made the All-Star Game out of this list? And if you are going to supplant one of the guys that did make it, who would they replace?

The NBA has more good players than they can fit on to two All-Star teams, and that will probably always be the case. That gives fans and players something to consider, and acts as fuel for the fire for the rest of the season.

Celtics reportedly told Pelicans they’ll discuss trading anyone besides Kyrie Irving for Anthony Davis

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Every team trying to acquire Anthony Davis before next week’s trade deadline must beat an offer the Pelicans can’t even accept yet.

The Celtics can’t realistically trade for Davis now, because both he and Kyrie Irving are designated rookie scale players. Teams are limited to one such player acquired by trade. But Irving’s contract status will change this offseason, and Boston can deal for Davis while keeping Irving then. The Celtics are loaded with assets and could quite conceivably make the strongest offer.

This makes the situation incredibly complex for New Orleans and every other Davis suitor now, though. Everyone must evaluate: What will Boston offer?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I think Boston has sent a message to the Pelicans: “Be patient. Wait for us. We are going to be in this, and we’re going to be willing to talk about essentially everyone on our roster outside Kyrie Irving.”

The big name is Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ 20-year-old rising-star forward who’s still under team control for at least three more full seasons. He might be the most valuable single player the Pelicans could get for Davis.

But would Boston really deal Tatum? I’m curious about the Celtics’ exact message. There’s obviously a difference between “willing to talk about essentially everyone on our roster outside Kyrie Irving” and promising now to trade anyone outside Irving. Even if Boston made that latter pledge, nothing is guaranteed. The Pelicans would have to be quite trusting.

Even believing the Celtics are sincere goes only so far. There are so many variables between now and July. What if the still-improving Tatum dominates in the playoffs? What if Davis further emphasizes he wants to join only the Lakers and wouldn’t re-sign in Boston? What if Davis gets hurt (though New Orleans could remove that risk by shutting him down).

For his part, Tatum said he’d trade himself for Davis. But no matter what’s said and even intended now, it’s far too soon to know whether Danny Ainge would agree in July.

The Celtics have plenty of other assets – including Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and extra first-round picks – to trade for Davis. Even if Tatum gets taken off the table, the Pelicans could get a good offer from Boston for Davis.

But a better offer than other teams will present now?

That’s the tricky question New Orleans must assess before the trade deadline.

What hurry? Pelicans’ GM Dell Demps reportedly ‘not picking up his phone’ yet

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The Pelicans are not going to be rushed into an Anthony Davis trade.

Sources with direct knowledge of the Pelicans thinking have told me the team would take its time to make sure it does what is best long term for the organization. Which is basically what the Pelicans said in their public statement, and what others have reported as well.

Dave McMenamin’s reporting at ESPN took that one step further, the Pelicans aren’t even talking trades with teams. Yet.

New Orleans general manager Dell Demps is “not picking up his phone,” a source familiar with the situation told ESPN on Tuesday.

That is going to change. Demps — or, whoever is going to make this call for the Pelicans on a Davis trade — will start answering his phone, talking to teams and listening to trade offers before the deadline. It would be bad business not to because some team may come in over the top with a massive offer that is too good to turn down.

Is some combination of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and a first round pick or two from the Lakers a ” massive offer that is too good to turn down?” Do the Pelicans look at that group and see a future multiple-time All-Star?

The Lakers are going to exert all the pressure they can to get a trade made before the Feb. 7 deadline, and Davis’ agent Rich Paul has tried to influence the process by leaking the trade demand now and saying Boston is not a “top target” destination for Davis. Paul has stepped so far over the line pushing for a trade Davis got fined for it.

The Pelicans don’t care. They will not be rushed. They would be smart to see how the NBA Draft Lottery shakes out, and wait until July to get Boston in the bidding, with their multiple first round picks and players such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Demps will start picking up his phone, but the people calling may not like what he has to say.