Anthony Davis restokes flames on Celtics conjecture
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With eagerness and openness, Anthony Davis added a new wrinkle to his future, and to the future of the Celtics organization, on Saturday by declaring that Boston was on his list of desired destinations.
The six-time New Orleans Pelicans All-Star asked for a trade in late January. The Celtics are interested and, for now, have the most assets to offer for Davis, for whom the Pelicans were unable to consummate a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers before the trade deadline. That leaves Davis in the precarious position of playing for an organization he wanted to part ways with.
Davis apparently gave the Pelicans a list of destinations that included the Lakers, Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and New York Knicks. The Celtics reportedly were not on that list. Then, Davis’s father said he did not want his son playing for the Celtics after the way the organization traded Isaiah Thomas despite his playing through hip pain and the death of his sister.
Davis himself had not addressed any of it with the national media until Saturday’s media day at the NBA All-Star Game. He spoke for 25 minutes, fielding various questions about his future and offering this stunning detail.
“I never said Boston wasn’t on my list,” he said, before repeating it three more times.
What’s more, Davis said market size didn’t matter. He offered that he placed the small-market Bucks on his list and, later, that he didn’t count out any team that gave him a chance to win.
“Big market, small market. It doesn’t matter. My focus is on winning,” he said. “It’s about the best fit for me. No matter where I am, I just want to play basketball.”
His declaration pumps new life into the rumors that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will make a serious offer for Davis around draft time. The Celtics have several young players and draft-pick assets to offer the Pelicans, and Ainge’s vision could be to team Davis with Kyrie Irving, who is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent on July 1. Davis is signed for next season, with a player option he’s likely to decline for 2020-21.
While he said he was open to playing for the Celtics, it’s uncertain whether Davis would re-sign with Boston in 2020. It’s also uncertain how much Davis and Irving have actually talked about playing together, and whether acquiring Davis is tied to Irving returning.
The entire situation got even more convoluted on Saturday. Davis acknowledged there was a list of preferred teams he presented to the Pelicans and he was hoping a trade could be consummated before the Feb. 7 deadline.
“Whatever list that came out, that’s between my agent and the Pelicans,” he said. “It’s true. When you’re somewhere for seven years, you have love for the fans. I have a home in New Orleans. Obviously in basketball, you want to take control of your career and that’s what I try to do. I haven’t talked to LeBron [James] about any of it. Obviously, I knew there were chances it wasn’t going to happen.”
Davis was booed vigorously in his first game back in New Orleans after trade talks fell through. He expressed love for the city and the fans, but reiterated it’s time to move on. He also said he wants to play the rest of the season for the Pelicans, which just fired general manager Dell Demps — Danny Ferry replaced him on an interim basis.
“I’m still representing the Pelicans; I don’t go look at other teams and, ‘How can I fit here? How can I fit here?’ ” he said. “My job is to finish the last 20-something game[s] in New Orleans and see what goes from there.”
One thing is certain: There is a renewed hope for Celtics faithful who want their team to pursue Davis in the offseason. The fact that he would be open to the Celtics for the final season of his contract at least offers hope that he would be open to an extension. And, honestly, the only reason why Ainge would make a mega-deal for Davis, potentially giving up Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, would be if it was a long-term connection.
“I have no preferred destination, but I want to play the game of basketball and I want to win,” Davis said. “I’m just keeping it real to be honest. I knew that’s all you guys wanted to talk about. I’m just stating how I feel, stating my intentions and going on from there.”