Rich Paul, the agent representing New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, made it clear what lies ahead for his client for any team that may land him via a trade.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Paul stressed that Davis intends to hit free agency next summer no matter where he ends up. Davis holds a player option for next season that will allow him to enter unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2020.
“Where he’s going to land? I have no idea,” Paul told Sports Illustrated's S.L. Price. “And it don’t matter. We’re going into free agency. Why does it matter to me where he goes? Earth: We’re going into free agency. He has a year, he has to play. But after that, I can’t say it no bigger: WE ARE GOING INTO FREE AGENCY. 2020: ANTHONY DAVIS WILL BE IN FREE AGENCY.”
Paul informed the Pelicans in January that Davis wanted out and had no intention of signing a long-term contract extension with the team. The Pelicans have been aware of what Davis wants, and while many trade rumors regarding him bubbled up leading into the NBA's trade deadline, he was ultimately not dealt.
The Boston Celtics have long been considered to be in the mix with the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets for Davis. However, the Celtics cannot realistically pursue Davis in trades until guard Kyrie Irving makes his future plans with the team known.
Paul made it clear in the Sports Illustrated story that even if Boston does acquire Davis, they must be prepared to face the summer of 2020, too.
“They can trade for him, but it’ll be for one year,” Paul says. “I mean: If the Celtics traded for Anthony Davis, we would go there and we would abide by our contractual [obligations] and we would go into free agency in 2020. I’ve stated that to them. But in the event that he decides to walk away and you give away assets? Don’t blame Rich Paul.”
Paul also dispelled the notion that he is trying to get Davis to the Lakers, where the versatile big man would be playing alongside former Kia MVP and Finals MVP winner LeBron James.
“Did you say that to David Falk? Would you say that to Arn Tellem?” Paul told Sports Illustrated, referring to two agents who once juggled stables of clients without charges of conflicts of interest.
“You’re only saying that because you feel like, ‘Well, Rich wouldn’t be in this position without LeBron,’ right? My thing is: Take LeBron off the Lakers. Are the Lakers not a great destination for an arguably top-two player that went to Kentucky and won a national championship, signed with Nike? For a team that’s had centers from George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaq?
“So now, when you add LeBron, that’s what? The cherry on top. LeBron’s 34 years old. Anthony Davis is 26. So when LeBron’s done playing, the Anthony Davis trade is still rolling. What better place to do it than L.A.? If it was L.A. -- I never said ‘L.A.’ But there’s no negative to that. Who gives a s--- what you’re talking about, about me trying to help LeBron out? No, I’m not. I’m trying to help Anthony Davis. Now, if helping Anthony Davis helps LeBron in the long run? So be it. But my goal is Anthony Davis.”
As for the Knicks, Paul said the following: “The only difference is, they don’t have as many championships as the Lakers. They got a tradition. It’s a big market -- not that it’s only big markets. They have cap space, flexibility, they’re able to absorb more than one star. What’s wrong with that?”
Paul also gave his version of why the Pelicans were unable to deal Davis before the Feb. 7 trade deadline. He told Sports Illustrated that former Pelicans GM Dell Demps is to blame, as Paul says he never intended for Davis' trade demand to go public. Paul says he first informed Demps of Davis' desire to be dealt on Jan. 25, with Demps saying he'd talk with owner Gayle Benson and get back to him.
However, Paul says Demps contacted Davis himself and never got back to Paul. In addition, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (who broke the news of Davis' trade request) contacted Demps to confirm Davis' demands.
“It was necessary to go public,” Paul said, per Sports Illustrated. “When I told you, ‘Here’s our intentions,’ and you say, ‘Hey, let me talk to ownership,’ and instead of you talking to ownership you call Anthony Davis? That’s called being ignored.”
To Paul, Demps also violated player-agent etiquette by speaking directly to Davis ("That's a no-no. Every GM knows that," Paul said). Demps was fired on Feb. 15 amid the fallout from the Davis trade drama.
The Pelicans' season quickly cratered after Davis' trade request, as they were 22-28 on Jan. 28 and went 11-21 to finish 33-49 and miss the playoffs. Davis appeared in 56 games, a career-low, and saw downturns in his overall shooting (51.7 percent) and 3-point shooting (33.1 percent) from 2018-19. Following the Feb. 7 trade deadline, Davis never played more than 34 minutes in a game.
The disgruntled six-time All-Star missed his seventh straight game to close out the 2018-19 season with what the team has listed as back spasms. He wore a T-shirt with the famous Looney Tunes sign off, “That’s All Folks,” written across the chest to New Orleans' final home game of the season. As he walked down the tunnel toward the locker room after the game, he gave one fan a high-five.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry at one point in mid-February termed the effect of Davis' trade demand on the team as a "dumpster fire."
David Griffin, the Pelicans' new executive vice president of basketball operations, met with Davis in Los Angeles at the end of May. While the talks were reportedly "respectful" and "productive," it was still considered "highly unlikely" that Davis would waver from his stance in seeking a trade.
Since then, Griffin has reportedly become open to multi-team trades for Davis as he has provided potential suitors with the framework of a trade package he'd want for the All-Star. Per Wojnarowski, the Knicks, Nets, Lakers and Clippers are among the front offices acquiring about Davis as well as some other, non-preferred teams feeling emboldened to enter the pursuit of Davis.
Overall, Wojnarowski reports, Griffin hasn't sounded convinced that a team-to-team swap for Davis is likely to fulfill his wishes for the franchise in a post-Davis state.
Davis has averaged 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 466 career games. The Pelicans have reached the playoffs just twice during his tenure, with one series victory. Overall last season, Davis averaged 25.9 ppg, 12 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.