The Lakers didn’t trade for Anthony Davis before Thursday’s deadline.
The Lakers did have most of their roster – Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac (who got sent to the Clippers in another deal), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley – named in reports of Los Angeles’ offers to the Pelicans.
That appeared to take a toll on the Lakers’ chemistry. So, Lakers president Magic Johnson met with the team Sunday.
But his tone before and after differed significantly.
Johnson on Saturday, via Larry Lage of the Associated Press
“It’s a part of business, it’s a part of being a professional athlete,” he said Saturday. “I’m going to hug ’em and tell them that we got to come together and our goal is still in reach, which is to make the playoffs.”
Johnson on Sunday, via ESPN:
I’m not that guy. I’m not the guy who, “Ohhhh, I’m going to hold. I’m going to go up and hug guys.” I’m not that dude.
Quit making this about thinking these guys are babies, because that’s what you’re treating them like. They’re professionals. All of them. And this is how this league works. They know it. I know it. That’s how it goes.
What’s worse, your team trying to trade you for a superstar or your boss pledging to hug you then rescinding the offer? Either way, tough times for Lakers players.
When Anthony Davis requested a trade, the Pelicans said their decision “will not be dictated by those outside of our organization. We have also requested the League to strictly enforce the tampering rules associated with this transaction.”
Davis got fined, but it’s obvious New Orleans’ ire wasn’t directed at only him. It extended to Davis’ agent (Rich Paul), LeBron James (another Paul client) and the Lakers. LeBron recently caused a stir by saying he wanted to play with Davis. The timing of Davis’ trade request, when the Celtics effectively couldn’t trade for him, seemed designed to get him to Los Angeles.
Since, negotiations between the Pelicans and Lakers have gained little to no traction. Word emerged New Orleans was unimpressed with the Lakers’ lowball offers. To avoid criticism that came with their failed pursuits of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers leaked just how strong their offer was. That meant including many names: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley.
While trade talks unfolded, Lakers veterans feuded with Luke Walton. The Lakers lost by 42 to the Pacers.
Brian Windhorst was asked whether the Pelicans were so upset with the Lakers’ perceived tampering, New Orleans used trade rumors to undermine the Lakers chemistry. Windhorst on ESPN:
It’s not just possible. It’s what happened. I know that the Pelicans – how do I want to put this?
The Pelicans had a method to their madness in the way this went. Did they know it was going to lead a 40-point loss because everybody’s upset? Not necessarily.
Whether or not New Orleans deliberately attempted to undermine the Lakers’ chemistry, that appears to be the result in Los Angeles. So, if the Lakers remain largely intact through the trade deadline, how will they respond?
Will everyone re-focus once freed of the immediate distraction? Or will they resent their fungibility to the team?
The Lakers are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Extending moping could cost them the postseason. So, the stakes are high.
From the start, sources with an understanding of New Orleans’ thinking on an Anthony Davis trade have told me the Pelicans were in no rush to make a move. They were willing to let that play out. That has not changed despite the Kristaps Porzingis trade taking the Knicks out of the running for Davis, or rumors that Kyrie Irving could bolt Boston for New York, altering the Celtics’ plans.
Earlier this week the Pelicans leaked that they were unhappy with the Lakers’ “lowball” offers, which could have been a signal to the Lakers to step up their game. The Lakers reportedly offered two of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, plus either Rajon Rondo and/or Michael Beasley.
Now Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner report the Pelicans are looking at a counteroffer.
The Pelicans are considering making a counter offer that would ask for two first-round picks and add a Pelicans player to the deal, according to people with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
I know Ganguli and Turner, both are well-connected pros, but here’s my concern: When two reporters based in Los Angeles who cover the Lakers come out with a report about what New Orleans is going to do, I’m skeptical.
That the Pelicans would ask for multiple first-round picks in the trade certainly is logical, but remember if the Lakers have Davis those picks are going to be low first rounders. Even this year, if Davis is traded before the deadline it is expected the Lakers would make up the two games they are back now and this would not be a lottery pick (in what is generally considered a down draft after the top pick anyway).
The Pelicans ideally will want their trading partner to take on Solomon Hill‘s contract, which would likely mean Kentavious Caldwell-Pope coming back to New Orleans in a hypothetical deal.
On top of that, the Pels would want three or four of those young Lakers.
And even with all that, why are the Pelicans in a rush to do the deal now? The Lakers’ interest in Davis isn’t going away. They will be there around the draft and in July (when Boston can get into the mix).
Whether a deal gets done by 3 ET next Thursday or not, expect a lot of rumors to be flying between now and then.
Remember: Every leak to the media is about spin, about getting to control the story on some level.
Sources have told me all along that the Pelicans would not be rushed to make a decision on where and when to trade Anthony Davis. They were going to do things at their own pace. That was always, in part, the Pelicans trying to gain leverage. The reports of Boston’s Kyrie Irving potentially joining Kevin Durant with the Knicks — messing up plans to pair Irving and Davis — hurt that leverage.
Then late on Friday night Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Shams Charania of The Athletic both come out with an interesting new storyline, that the Lakers are lowballing the Pelicans.
The Magic Johnson/Rob Pelinka Lakers have done this before, making lowball offers to Indiana for Paul George and Toronto for Kawhi Leonard because they believed they would come to Los Angeles as a free agent in a year anyway. It adds a layer of believability to this latest report. Would the Lakers do the same thing with Davis after what happened with George, who is having his best season ever as a member of the Thunder?
Here’s my question: Why leak this now?
To show the world why the Pelicans are not taking the Laker offer? Why they are waiting past the trade deadline for an offer from Boston or others? To show the Lakers are overvaluing their own prospects? To show they aren’t passing up the offer most thought would be on the table, which would be any and all of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart?
Or, is the goal embarrass the Lakers and put public pressure on them to up their offer? In that case, the Pelicans might be willing to do a deal. Other reports said the Lakers have yet to put multiple first-round picks or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in an offer (he’s an expiring contract), nor have they been willing to take on a bad Pelican salary (Solomon Hill). Are the Pelicans signaling what they are looking for in a trade? From the Lakers or anyone?
There’s a lot of gamesmanship going on here. The big question remains: Do the Pelicans have any intention of trading Davis to the Lakers, and would they do it before the Feb. 7 trade deadline? I have my doubts, but the Pelicans are playing the game now.
Anthony Davis hasn’t given the Pelicans a list of preferred destinations.
But he hired LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul. LeBron has openly recruited Davis to Los Angeles. The Lakers have reportedly preserved assets to trade for Davis.
There is good reason so much attention is focused on the Lakers.
What would it take for them to get Davis?
Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:
Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac and a first-round pick for Davis doesn’t work under the salary cap. If the Lakers added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, it would.
And sure, why not? The Lakers should rush to make that trade.
Their young players – also including Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Moritz Wagner – are merely fine. If Los Angeles can get a superstar like Davis for that group, go for it.
I’m not convinced the Pelicans will be amenable, but the Pelicans haven’t been well-run. Who knows what they’d do?
The Lakers’ best leverage is Davis saying he’d re-sign only with them. At that point, maybe an offer of Ball, Kuzma, Zubac, Caldwell-Pope and a first-round pick looks appealing enough. But even then, other teams might risk trading for Davis – who has a season and a half left before free agency – as a super-rental/someone they must convince to re-sign.
It’s already disappointing in New Orleans that Davis wants to leave. Getting this package for him would only further the letdown.