Anthony Davis wants on the Lakers, but the Pelicans and Celtics aren't having it

Ben Rohrbach
LeBron James has made no secret of his admiration for Anthony Davis. (AP)
LeBron James has made no secret of his admiration for Anthony Davis. (AP)

Anthony Davis wants to force his way to the Los Angeles Lakers. The New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics aren’t having it. This, according to the latest from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe.

Agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group has not publicly declared that his client only wants a trade to the Lakers and will sign with them as a free agent in 2020 regardless of where he is dealt. Not like how Paul unequivocally stated that Davis wanted the trade in the first place. But, reading between the tea leaves of the report from Wojnarowski and Lowe, it is clear that Davis is delivering that message:

Teams interested in trading for Davis — including the Boston Celtics — are in full fact-finding mode and the intel coming back is this, sources tell ESPN: Davis’ plan is to treat any trade destination as a one-year stop — except, of course, the Lakers. Teams are learning that Davis’ stated intention will be to play the season elsewhere if traded outside of the Lakers, but move to the Lakers as a free agent in 2020.

Pray tell, who are these sources?

The stance of Davis and his camp toward Boston is linked to their view of Kyrie Irving’s future, sources said. Davis and his camp no longer believe that Irving is a sure bet to re-sign with the Celtics this summer, and that’s the primary reason they insist on clumping Boston with a similar message to the 28 other teams: Buyer beware on a trade for Davis.

Davis and his camp, you say?

[Rich] Paul represents [LeBron] James, but Davis hired Paul and Klutch Sports and so he’s clearly signed off on this Lakers endgame strategy — no matter if some in the NBA chose to be skeptical.

Ah, there it is.

Listen, the ties between Davis, LeBron, Paul and the Lakers have been obvious since the moment Davis fired his agent to hire Klutch Sports this past summer. This — letting it be known that Davis will not re-sign with anyone but the Lakers in an effort to suppress the trade market — was inevitable.

The Pelicans aren’t having it

Somewhat contrary to an earlier ESPN report, New Orleans general manager Dell Demps was picking up his phone to listen to trade offers for Davis. He just wasn’t initially answering calls from Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson or GM Rob Pelinka, per Wojnarowski and Lowe.

That reportedly changed at some point on Tuesday.

There could be many reasons for the delay, including the possibility that the Pelicans believe Davis, Paul and LeBron have been orchestrating this on behalf of the Lakers since the summer, and they — like the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George before them — don’t want to tie Davis in a neat little bow for the glitziest of franchises and their glamorous superstar.

The Pelicans might also believe they can land a better offer than a hodgepodge of young players and draft picks that may never yield an All-NBA talent.

Here’s what we do know, according to Wojnarowski and Lowe: Neither Pelicans owner Gayle Benson nor executive vice president of basketball operations Mickey Loomis is interested in catering to Davis.

From the latest ESPN report:

If Davis wants to be a Laker, the Pelicans’ mantra so far is simply: Feel free to join L.A. as a free agent in 2020 — and potentially punt on the 2019-20 season, with LeBron at age 35, to keep the requisite cap space open.

That is a pretty powerful leveraging point over the Lakers, who in the meantime will be under constant pressure from LeBron to win. (Just ask Luke Walton.) Even then, when LeBron will turn 36 years old in his 18th season, there is no guarantee that they would be the favorites for the 2021 title.

The Lakers are trying to regain their leverage:

OK, then. Regardless of what the Lakers offer, the Pelicans believe that offer will still be there in July.

The Celtics aren’t having it, either

In the meantime, Boston remains steadfast in its desire to acquire Davis for a shot at the 2020 title.

The Celtics, with their stockpile of young talent and first-round picks, are prepared to make the best offer for Davis in July, and they have communicated as much to the Pelicans, according to Wojnarowski and Lowe. They have reportedly yet to put Jayson Tatum on the table — and would prefer not to — but could drop the hammer if it means stalling the Lakers’ plans to acquire Davis by the Feb. 7 trade deadline. (Boston, by collectively bargained contract rules, cannot pair Davis with Kyrie Irving now.)

Per Wojnarowski and Lowe, the Celtics are “unconvinced” that Irving will renege on his commitment to re-sign or that Davis would walk away from a chance to win rings with Irving. They are, however, convinced that Irving will re-sign if they acquire Davis, his close friend and USA Basketball teammate.

If, as the Lakers say, they would pursue other free agents besides Davis this summer, that would preclude them from signing the generational talent anyhow, because they won’t have the cap space.

What is perhaps most ironic in all of this is that the Lakers have previously lowballed the Pacers and Spurs in respective offers for George and Leonard, believing either or both would sign with them in free agency. Like Davis, both players made it known they preferred trades to Los Angeles. George changed his mind, and Leonard may be heading that way. Now, the Lakers are willing to make their best offer for Davis, and it might not be good enough. Pull enough strings, and things can unravel.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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