NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans.
And if a trade happens, it’ll be on the Pelicans’ schedule.
The five-time All-Star has told the Pelicans that he wants to be traded to a championship-contending team and will not sign an extension with New Orleans, agent Rich Paul told The Associated Press on Monday.
ESPN first reported Davis’ demand to be traded to a contender, a request he made last week. It is a move that will resonate around the league, one that will have teams trying to see how they can put together a package good enough to land Davis. But the Pelicans made clear in a written statement Monday afternoon that they’re in no rush, and will wait for the right deal.
“We will do this on our terms and our timeline,” the Pelicans said, adding that they will only accept a deal that “makes the most sense for our team and it will not be dictated by those outside of our organization.”
Translated: The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 7, and if the Pelicans don’t get a deal they want by then, they’re prepared to wait.
“He plans on playing out the season,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Monday while Davis was at the team’s training headquarters in Pelicans gear, working out and getting treatment on the injured left index finger that has kept him out of four games. “A.D. is a professional guy and he’s going to play as hard as he can once he gets well and we’re going to do the best we can to try put our team in position to win games.”
The Pelicans have also asked the NBA to “strictly enforce” any tampering rules associated with the pursuit of Davis, who is having the best season of his career, averaging 29.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game. The NBA is also looking into the trade request itself, since making such a demand publicly would seem to have violated league rules.
Davis will almost certainly become a six-time All-Star later this week when the NBA announces the full rosters for this year’s game that will be played Feb. 17 in Charlotte.
It’s just unclear if Davis will be in Charlotte as a member of the Pelicans.
“It’s the business of basketball,” said New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday, who said Davis is “90 percent” of the reason why he decided two summers ago to sign a five-year, $126 million contract to remain in New Orleans.
The Pelicans next play Tuesday at Houston.
In Indianapolis, where Golden State played the Pacers on Monday night, the Warriors’ Kevin Durant supported Davis’ trade demand.
“It’s not like the president is shutting down the government. It’s just basketball,” Durant said. “As players, we want guys to do exactly what they want to do in this league. They have a short amount of time. So why not do what you want?”
Davis’ future has long been in question. He’s an elite superstar on a team that hasn’t gotten past the second round of the playoffs since he’s been in New Orleans — and in four of his first six full seasons, the Pelicans didn’t qualify for the postseason at all. They entered Monday 13th in the Western Conference standings, six games out of the final playoff spot with 32 games remaining.
His telling New Orleans that he wants out is the latest power move by a star player who wants to get traded, following a path now similar to what Kawhi Leonard did when he wanted to be traded by San Antonio and what Paul George did when he decided it was time to move on from Indiana. Telling the Pelicans that he won’t re-sign with them provides a blunt message: Move me, or lose me for nothing.
But New Orleans, which controls Davis’ contract through the 2019-20 season, had been steadfast for months and repeatedly said it had no desire to move its best player. Davis would be eligible this summer for a five-year, roughly $240 million extension with the Pelicans that would have kicked in beginning with the 2020-21 season.
“When we’ve had our team together that we thought we were going to have, we’re 7-3 — and that tells you that we’ve only had our team together for 10 games,” Gentry asserted. “From there, you can speculate whatever you like to. … We were excited about the team we started the season with.”
Trade chatter has ramped up this season, especially after Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James — who is represented by Paul, just as Davis is — included the New Orleans star on a list of players that he would love to play with. James’ comments were construed in some circles as campaigning for Davis.
Boston would almost certainly be a place that makes sense; the Celtics are a contender and have more than enough assets to make a good deal for New Orleans. But the Celtics cannot trade for Davis under NBA rules until July 1, unless they also trade away Kyrie Irving — which likely won’t happen. Irving is a factor because of what’s known as the Rose Rule, the one that says NBA teams cannot trade for more than one player who has signed an extension.
The Celtics could sign Irving in July and then trade for Davis. But until then, unless they move Irving, Davis won’t be in Boston.
That would point to the Lakers as another possible destination for a trade. The Lakers have James, which probably means they’re attractive to Davis as well. But when James spoke of Davis last month, he shrugged off the notion he did anything illicit and insisted star players wanting to play with other stars is just common sense.
“Come on, guys,” James told reporters last month. “It’s not rocket science.”
A year ago at this time, the Pelicans had perhaps the most dominant frontcourt in the NBA with Davis lining up with DeMarcus Cousins. Then Cousins tore his Achilles tendon, and wound up signing this past summer with Golden State. The Pelicans responded by opening the season with a surprisingly lopsided victory at Houston and started 4-0 before a series of injuries appeared to undermine them.
It has been an interesting few days for New Orleans sports fans. Saints fans are still reeling from a non-call for pass interference last week that played a major role in their team losing the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams and being denied a Super Bowl berth.
And now, the news only gets worse with Davis declaring he wants out.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report from Miami