And the NBA might soon see a blockbuster trade to come together.
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. It is a move that will resonate around the league, one that will have most — if not all — teams trying to see how they can put together a package good enough for the Pelicans to send Davis their way.
Davis is having the best season of his career, averaging 29.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game. He’ll 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.
Now it’s unclear if Davis will be there as a member of the Pelicans or not. The trade deadline is Feb. 7.
The Pelicans did not have any immediate comment. They next play Tuesday at Houston.
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, has been steadfast for months: The Pelicans have no desire to move their best player, who is in line to sign a $240 million, five-year extension in 2020.
“We’re not trading him,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said last month, one of many times he’s addressed the topic. “I can say that to the world. We’re not going to trade him, no matter what. That’s not an option.”
Still, 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, since 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, right now, aren’t necessarily a contender. But they have James, which probably means they’re attractive to Davis as well. James shrugged off the notion he did anything illicit, saying it’s just common sense that he would like to play with elite players like Davis.
“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, and wound up signing this past summer with Golden State.
It has not been a good month 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 saying he wants out.
By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer