Anthony Davis has the New York Knicks on equal footing with the Los Angeles Lakers as he considers what teams he would be willing to join on a long-term deal after securing a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans, according to two people with knowledge of Davis’ thinking.
A trade to any team did not appear imminent Wednesday night, as Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline drew near. But Davis’ recent request to be traded did not include a demand that the move happen before the deadline, according to the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
The Knicks have won only one playoff series over the past 18 seasons, and their public image has suffered under the ownership of James Dolan. But the lure of playing in one of the league’s most attractive markets, along with the way the Knicks have positioned themselves to pursue marquee free agents after trading away their franchise player, Kristaps Porzingis, has resonated with Davis, according to the people.
The Lakers had been aggressively trying to complete a trade for Davis with the Pelicans before the deadline, because the Boston Celtics — who have been planning a trade run at Davis for months — cannot trade for the All-Star forward while Kyrie Irving is on the Celtics’ roster. (Davis and Irving are playing under maximum rookie scale contract extensions; league rules preclude teams from fielding more than one such player.)
The Lakers, however, backed out of trade talks for Davis on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times. ESPN reported Wednesday night that there had been no communication Wednesday between New Orleans general manager Dell Demps and Lakers president Magic Johnson.
The Knicks, who unsuccessfully attempted to interest New Orleans in a Porzingis-headlined trade for Davis last month, could still make offers for Davis up to Thursday’s deadline. But they might fare better after the draft lottery in May, when the Knicks’ position in the June 20 draft is cemented.
Thanks in part to the Porzingis trade, the Knicks have amassed seven first-round picks over the next five years to go with a core of promising young players headlined by Kevin Knox and the newly acquired Dennis Smith Jr. Skepticism permeates the Knicks’ fan base as the team appears headed toward its sixth successive nonplayoff season, but their trade assets position the Knicks to make a legitimate run at Davis before a big free-agent summer. In the offseason, the Knicks plan to use the significant salary-cap space opened by the Porzingis deal to pursue marquee free agents such as Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Irving in Boston.
The Knicks are aware of Davis’ strong interest in playing in New York, according to the people. Either way, though, Davis is leaning toward playing out his current contract and becoming a free agent in July 2020 no matter where he is traded.
Since Davis lodged his trade request Jan. 28, there have been numerous reports that he is not willing to sign a long-term contract with the Celtics, but Sports Illustrated and the Boston Herald were among the media outlets to report this week that Celtics officials had urged the Pelicans to hold off on trading Davis until the offseason, insisting that Boston could produce an offer that would trump any competing proposals.
The Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks are the other two teams, along with the Lakers and Knicks, with whom Davis has indicated a willingness to sign for the long term.
Davis has missed six games with a finger injury but was seeking to play in both of New Orleans’ games this week. The Pelicans, however, opted to hold Davis out while working on trades and have not yet disclosed whether they plan to allow Davis to return to the lineup if he is not traded this week. Davis, according to a person with knowledge of his thinking, would like to play out the season with the Pelicans if no trade materializes before the deadline, despite the fact that the injury risk would be significant for both player and team.
The trade saga has rocked both the Pelicans and the Lakers. Los Angeles suffered a 42-point defeat Tuesday night amid the constant speculation about the Lakers trying to package Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma with draft picks to acquire Davis with a goal of pairing one of the game’s best big men with LeBron James. Both Davis and James are represented by agent Rich Paul.
Despite having missed 14 games through injury, Davis is in the midst of another outstanding season. In 41 games, he is averaging career highs in points (29.3), rebounds (13.3) and assists (4.4) per game and has been selected by Western Conference coaches to appear in the Feb. 17 All-Star Game in Charlotte.