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Anthony Davis’s Comments Become Trade Machine Kindling

The never-ending NBA rumor mill chews up the Pelicans star’s quotes about his future in New Orleans

Anthony Davis holding up a no. 1 sign Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Had it been getting too quiet out on these free-agent streets? Did the Cavs’ recent winning streak suddenly make it hard to keep talking about LeBron to L.A.? Did Magic Johnson’s suggestion that the Lakers may save cap space for 2019 — not 2018 — deter you from checking on possibly disgruntled superstars on mediocre teams?

Not to worry. The latest file to come from the Woj Cabinet of Trade Fodder features the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, who tried to set the record straight about his future in a sprawling interview published Tuesday that also addressed those nagging rumors linking him to the Celtics.

“[GM Dell Demps] told me that [Boston] was calling, but nothing was going to happen,” Davis told ESPN. “At the same time, though, you see how organizations treat players. Isaiah Thomas. DeMarcus [Cousins] told me that the [Kings] told him that he wasn’t going to get traded, but they traded him. Isaiah took his team to the Eastern Conference finals, and they traded him.”

“It’s not about the money. It’s not about having fans,” Davis said. “The most important thing to me: winning. That’s what I want to do. And I want to do it here.”

“Here” being with the New Orleans Pelicans, a franchise that has been to the playoffs only once in Davis’s tenure.

Even with DeMarcus Cousins on board, Davis’s Pelicans are further away from winning at the highest level than Davis is from unrestricted free agency (which could happen as soon as the summer of 2020). While New Orleans (15–15) fights for a playoff spot, the Warriors’ dynasty looms, the Rockets are revving up for their own run, and the Spurs remain a consistent threat. The Timberwolves, Nuggets, and Blazers — the three teams directly ahead of the Pelicans in the West standings — are also young and improving. And, as Davis noted, the East is loaded with young stars that have taken over the spotlight. “I hear these TV shows and see social media,” he said. “They say [Kristaps] Porzingis. They say Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Joel [Embiid]. And that’s fine, I’ll just play basketball.”

While Davis’s injury history is quite long, he is still the type of frontline talent that could push a possible contender over the top. For instance, he currently ranks fourth in the NBA in PER. It’s why the Celtics have “remained vigilant on the possibility of acquiring Davis,” according to ESPN.

Davis says that he doesn’t crave the limelight. “Yeah, I hear it all: You need to post before games,” Davis said. “If you have a dunk or make a big shot, post it. It’s not me. I don’t ever try to do anything just for attention. I am trying to get my work in.”

But he does “long for a well-run, well-balanced” franchise, according to ESPN, like the ones he sees in San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

It’s hard to predict what will happen with Davis, but there’s plenty of time to wonder about it. Unless the Pelicans’ trajectory changes, any time Davis discusses his future — even if it’s to clarify that he wants to make it work in New Orleans — it will only serve as an excuse to get the trade machine going.