The NBA trade deadline falls a little earlier than usual this year, on Feb. 7, and trade season has already gotten messy, with one of the league’s biggest stars being fined for requesting a move.
The NBA lightly punished Anthony Davis, fining him $50,000 after his agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN that his client wants to join “a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship.” Paul added: “Anthony wanted to be honest and clear with his intentions, and that’s the reason for informing them of this decision now. That’s in the best interests of both Anthony’s and the organization’s future.”
Attention has centered on the Los Angeles Lakers as his preferred destination, although the league’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits players and their agents from publicly requesting trades. The Lakers have been fined twice by the NBA for tampering for a total of $550,000 since 2017. Paul also represents LeBron James.
The Pelicans issued a statement in which they said that representatives for Davis had informed them over the weekend that the five-time all-star, who turns 26 in March, “does not wish to sign a contract extension with our team and subsequently has requested a trade.”
“Although we are disappointed in this decision, our organization’s top priority is to bring an NBA championship to our city and fans and build our team for long-term success,” the Pelicans said, adding that any trade would be carried out “on our terms and our timeline” and would not be “dictated by those outside of our organization.”
That appears directed at the Lakers, with ESPN reporting that they are Davis’s preferred landing spot and that, if traded, he would become just a rental player until 2020, when he can become a free agent.
In a recent Pelicans home game against the Nuggets, New Orleans removed Davis from a video shown for the team’s introduction. That move came amid reports that, if he is not traded by the deadline, Davis might be benched by the Pelicans for the rest of the season.
Count the Boston Celtics out in the Davis sweepstakes (for now) unless they are prepared to make a very, very big move.
Because Kyrie Irving and Davis both signed their present contract extensions under something called “the Rose Rule,” the Celtics cannot currently have both players on the roster.
So just what is this Rose Rule, named for Derrick Rose, the first player to sign a similar extension?
Under the rule, which is part of the collective bargaining agreement, certain players coming off their rookie-scale contracts can earn 30 percent of the salary cap rather than 25 percent. To do so, a player must have hit at least one of three benchmarks during his first four seasons: won the MVP award or the defensive player of the year award or be named to two all-NBA teams (first, second or third). Two all-star starter berths replaced the DPOY category when Davis and Irving signed their deals.
And if the players are still on their Rose Rule extensions, an NBA team cannot trade for more than one. Because the Celtics traded for Irving in the summer of 2017, they cannot trade for Davis or any other Rose Rule player unless Irving leaves or agrees to a new deal. Although he can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, Irving has said he wants to remain in Boston, but he cannot re-sign until July 1.
Before or after the Feb. 7 trade deadline, New Orleans has expressed no desire to trade Davis, who will be eligible to sign a five-year, $240 million supermax extension this summer.
By making this statement now, Davis has given teams other than the Celtics the jump on possible deals. In addition to the Lakers, the New York Knicks are reportedly in hot pursuit. A Davis trade would shake the NBA and, for what it’s worth, James recently said it would be “amazing” to have Davis as a teammate.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports cited league sources Monday in reporting that the Lakers and Knicks “are preparing to make offers” for Davis. Haynes claimed that the Philadelphia 76ers have “no plans to pursue a deal” at the moment, possibly because Davis’s agent also represents 76ers star Ben Simmons, who might be expected to be shipped to New Orleans in most such scenarios.
Davis has been out for a week with a finger injury, and there has already been speculation that the Pelicans might want to shelve him for the rest of the season rather than risk a major injury that could derail receiving a huge haul in return for him. New Orleans Coach Alvin Gentry, though, said Monday, “When guys are ready to play — and he’s already made it clear that he wants to play — then we’re going to play him.”
Gentry said that despite the fact that the trade request was now “in the open and everyone knows,” it was “not hanging over our heads,” and the team would proceed with “business as usual.”
“He had to do what he had to do for his family and for him, what’s best for his career,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. “Anthony has always been professional, and he’s always been professional with us, and even more so, he’s been friends and like a brother. So whatever decision he makes, I can’t be upset with him. I know this is a business, but he’s doing what’s best for him.”
If the Pelicans and Davis can wait until summer, the Celtics’ options expand significantly. They could have as many as four first-round picks in the draft and could put together an attractive package for Davis. In addition to the four picks, Boston could offer young standouts Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. If the Celtics want Davis that badly immediately, they’d have to include Irving in the trade. That’s the rule.
Drama in Los Angeles: Change of one sort or another seems likely for the Lakers. James’s “camp,” according to ESPN, reportedly wants a change of head coach. Now, Jackie MacMullan reports: “There’s a lot of tension in that building … and I think people are wondering about [Coach] Luke Walton even though [owner] Jeanie Buss came out very strongly and said ‘I want Luke to be here, I back him 100 percent,’ but then also made the point that has to be made, and that’s that she hired Earvin Magic Johnson to make these decisions, and if Earvin feels differently she gave him the power to make those kinds of decisions.”
“It’s clear to me, and probably to you, Brian,” she told Brian Windhorst, “that LeBron’s camp would prefer a coaching change. They’re not too subtle about that. I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t.”
According to MacMullan, James himself hasn’t made that known to the front office, though.
As for getting help for James when he returns from his groin injury, Buss told “The Lowe Podcast” that she hasn’t regretted not getting another star to play alongside him. “I don’t think so, because I see progress. The team is [26-25] right now, and the Western Conference is difficult. I would never think as being over .500, you would not be in the playoffs.”
But the Athletic’s Bill Oram reports the Lakers would consider parting with Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma or Brandon Ingram in pursuit of a second star and could also look at three-point shooters whose deals are expiring. However, Ball would prefer to be traded to a third team without an established point guard, the Athletic’s Shams Charania reports.
The Knicks are playing: Guard Trey Burke is being shopped by the team, with the Lakers, Warriors and Nets possible destinations for him, the New York Post reports. With center Enes Kanter on the trading block, the Knicks are also open to trading Tim Hardaway Jr. or Courtney Lee, according to the New York Times.
Looking for Love? The six-month restriction on trading Kevin Love has expired for the Cavaliers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The Cavaliers aren’t eager to trade the injured power forward, who signed a $120 million contract extension in July, and he wants to stay in Cleveland. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve said all along I’ve wanted to be here. I’ve said this, too: It’s a business,” Love said recently. “We saw that last year at the deadline. Think every trade deadline, draft, free agency, always brings something new. It’s always different. I would love to be here. Would just love to get through a whole season healthy just because I’ve had nagging things that have taken time and been a little bit unlucky, but I would like to play ball here.”
Thon wants more time: With D.J. Wilson getting more playing time recently, Thon Maker, the 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft, has asked the Bucks to trade him, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. The Bucks and Warriors are vying for the NBA’s best record.
What about J.R.? And then there’s J.R. Smith. His large contract with Cleveland makes a trade unlikely, but he is ready to play and may accept a buyout to do so. Would the Warriors or Rockets give him a shot, Sam Amico asks?
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