LOS ANGELES – Some league executives reportedly believe LeBron James is tampering for answering a question from reporters, stating it “would be amazing” to play with New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis.
And then when James exited the Staples Center, the 16-year veteran demonstrated why he’s unstoppable on and off the court.
With the Pelicans staying overnight before traveling to Sacramento, James and Davis met up for a postgame dinner in Los Angeles, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
If Davis desires to be a member of the Lakers, it’s only a matter of time before he’s eventually sporting the purple and gold. Davis is in complete control of his destiny, and it may lead him directly to Southern California.
The Designated Player Veteran Extension was intended to increase the likelihood of franchise players staying with their current teams.
However, for the Pelicans’ superstar and the representation he hired in September — Klutch Sports, which also represents James — the lucrative incentive won’t factor much into his decision on whether the 6-foot-10 star will commit long term to New Orleans, as The Athletic reported Friday.
Davis wants to compete for championships for years to come. If Davis is of the mindset that New Orleans can’t surround him with the talent to contend, the DPVE won’t be viewed as much of a sweetener.
“I’d take legacy over money,” Davis told Yahoo Sports after posting game highs of 30 points and 20 rebounds to go with five assists in Friday’s loss. “I want to have a legacy. All my people that look up to me, the younger kids, I want them to know about AD’s legacy. Championships, the things I do in the community, being a good teammate, playing hard. All that stuff matters the most to me. Don’t get me wrong, money is amazing. But I think in that sense, money or legacy, I think my legacy will win that battle every time.”
When his name was called during starting-lineup introductions at the Staples Center, he received a rousing ovation.
“It’s cool to have fans everywhere you go,” Davis said, “but my job is about the Pelicans right now.”
Davis was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft and since then the Pelicans have only qualified for postseason play twice. And now they are on the verge of spiraling, dropping three in a row and failing to win consecutive games since Nov.19.
At 15-18, they own the third-worst record in the Western Conference, but are just 2.5 games behind the eighth seed.
Players on other teams and a few of Davis’ teammates at times have privately suggested to the forward that the best outcome for him might be to move on, sources told Yahoo Sports. Davis, publicly, has professed his love for New Orleans and has tried to keep his focus on the season at hand.
The five-time NBA All-Star will be eligible to receive the DPVE in the summer of 2019, and the Pelicans can offer a five-year, $239,540,000 max contract that’s based on a $118 million cap projection for the 2019-20 season.
With annual 8 percent raises off his first-year salary, he would earn $41.3 million in Year One, $44.6 million in Year Two, $47.9 million in Year Three, $51.2 million in Year Four and $54.5 million in Year Five.
Rich Paul, CEO of Klutch Sports, is known to go against conventional wisdom when it comes to contract negotiations.
If Davis were to decline the DPVE, sources said he would likely decline the $28.7 million player option for the 2020-21 season and hit unrestricted free-agency in 2020. This would ultimately force the Pelicans to seriously consider trading their cornerstone in order to receive some form of value in return.
The Boston Celtics have long monitored Davis’ situation and on the surface possess the most attractive package of assets. If a team were to trade for Davis, he could play out his last year and re-sign for up to five years and $205 million. As an outright free agent, he could sign a max deal with a new team that would be worth approximately $152 million for four years.
“No, we’re not trading him,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said before the game Friday. “We’re not trading him under any circumstance. You can move on from that one.”
But should Davis be so adamant about teaming up with James, Paul would inform all teams that his client is not signing an extension anywhere other than with the Lakers.
Teams could choose to go the Toronto Raptors route with Kawhi Leonard and trade for Davis anyway, but the ramifications of such a move could prove too costly in dealing with Paul and getting Davis to stay.
The L.A. market is alluring and Davis is intrigued.
Earlier this year, he purchased a $7.5 million home in Westlake Village in Los Angeles County. Furthermore, his profile and Nike presence would presumably grow in L.A.
The Lakers are a legitimate threat to pry Davis from the Pelicans. And if that’s what he wants, as many believe, there really will be no stopping him.
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