clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Anthony Davis has simply outgrown the New Orleans Pelicans: “I feel like it’s my time to move on”

“I gave this city, the organization, the fans, you know, everything I felt like I could.”

Detroit Pistons v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

On January 28, 2019 and at 6:09 a.m. Central time, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped an early morning bomb that shook every New Orleans Pelicans fan to the core — after six and a half seasons, Anthony Davis had requested a trade out of New Orleans.

Davis spent close to 15 minutes with the media today, his first public session since Rich Paul of Klutch Sports reached out to Woj and delivered the fateful news, and although AD did not reveal much, he did confirm what many of us had assumed: Davis has had enough and is ready for a breath of fresh air.

“I feel like it’s my time,” said Davis. “I gave this city, the organization, the fans, you know, everything I felt like I could. I don’t know how long I’ll play this game. People’s careers are short and then I felt like it was my time to move on.”

Anthony Davis and the Pelicans were like that ex-girlfriend: no matter how much you wanted the relationship to work it just wasn’t compatible and ever going to work. Lack of sustained team success will dominate the surface of ADs tenure, fine. Injuries will be the excuse, and the front office will harbor the blame. That is how everyone will remember it, but that is not how Pelicans fans should remember it.

Don’t look back at what could have been because it is time to look forward at what is possible. Davis, despite the lack of sustained success, was undoubtedly fun to watch during his tenure in New Orleans. Could he have been better? Sure. However, that can be said about every player; it is up to front offices to mask the flaws of their players. Davis gave everything he had to the city during his tenure and tried to help the team win. It didn’t happen, for so many reasons, but dwelling on that won’t change anything.

Like any lousy breakup, there is plenty of blame to be passed out to both parties. Yet going that route at this stage is futile. It was painfully obvious that Davis didn’t want to go in depth on pertinent details, like what day did he have that ah-ha moment or It is much more productive to take the next step which is moving on.

“I had high hopes,” said Davis. “When you play somewhere for a long time, seven years — or six and a half, I guess — and all I know is New Orleans. I have always talked about just winning. For me, I just feel like it’s my time. Like I said, you don’t know how long you’re going to play this game, and I feel like I’m in my prime, playing at an elite level. I want to make sure I take advantage of that.”

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Let us look at this from a logical perspective. Anthony Davis has endured a lot of losing during his professional career. If you were to ask anybody not from New Orleans the question, would they rather play for the Pelicans or the Los Angeles Lakers — who also happen to have LeBron James? They would say the Lakers. On any level it makes sense, but interestingly, Davis maintains that he has not requested to go to the Lakers.

“No, I, nor my representation, never gave the Pelicans a destination or anything so I’m not sure where that’s coming from,” said Davis. “Maybe the connection with my representation, but we never gave the Pelicans a destination.”

After getting asked if he was willing to play elsewhere, Davis added, “It’s on the Pelicans.”

Imagine it like this...while you are struggling in your current relationship for years, this more attractive person comes along and is promising to give you everything you desire. That is what is taking place.

Agent Rich Paul and LeBron James are cunning, calculated and smart. The Lakers are historically wealthy, financially wealthy and globally wealthy — none of these are adjectives we would use to describe the New Orleans Pelicans. Now, the Lakers have not been a well-run organization for about six years now, but they are turning it around and more importantly the allure of being a Laker still exists.

If white privilege were to have an image, it would be L.A sports. L.A is the complete opposite of New Orleans and it is the cruel mistress that stole our Super Bowl and now wants our superstar, who is completely on board with the idea even if he denied it today.

By the way, make no mistake about it, Anthony Davis is a superstar. He wants MVPs, signature shoes, championship rings, and as he coined it a “legacy”. He’s not the 19-year-old kid that arrived fresh from Kentucky and under Coach Calipari’s guidance. He’s 25, in the prime of his life and now his goals are simply unattainable in his mind in the city of New Orleans.

This current environment, with the lines drawn, is a common theme when two parties move on from each other. But in coming days, weeks or even months, things could get even messier — that’s usually how these types of breakouts get. Anthony Davis, for his part, is trying to be the guy who wants to remain friends.

Unfortunately, that rarely works out like that. It is ideal in theory, but in reality, this is just making the situation that much more obtuse.

Davis seems like he wants to remain on good terms with NOLA, and why we wouldn’t he, he’s always been the nice guy who avoids stepping on toes. This is not like Paul George’s situation or Kawhi Leonard’s. The divide is about a player who is ready to take the next leap in his career, and the Pelicans can’t get him there and Davis can’t carry them there. Some of that is on Davis, some of it on the organization. Though, this copacetic fantasy is going to end at some point. It has to for real progress to be gained. Tough conversations will need to be had — just like the one AD admitted he had with Jrue Holiday when sharing he was going to put in a trade request. Feelings will get hurt, but remember at the end of the day, the NBA is a business, and Davis is making a decision solely on his behalf.

“I feel like it’s my time,” said Davis. “It has nothing to do with the organization, teammates, fan, community, nothing. This is me. This is my decision. This is something I wanted to do.”

Breakups nearly always get messy, it’s just a fact of life. With so many outside parties, things will come out and it could get ugly. The Pelicans need to be ready to deal with it. Rich Paul and LeBron James have been courting Davis for some time behind the scenes so you best believe that they will do everything in power to get what they want, when they want — which is right now. Fortunately, the Pelicans look like they will not back down and be forced into making a decision until they’re ready, finding a solution they prefer.

New Orleans officials are prepared to play the long game on Davis’ future, embarking on an uncomfortable, if not combative process that could extend months beyond next Thursday’s trade deadline.

Pelicans owner Gayle Benson is enthusiastically carrying the small-market banner, pushing back on any planned superstar union of James and Davis in the NBA’s glamour market.

If Davis wants to be a Laker, the Pelicans’ mantra so far is simply: Feel free to join L.A. as a free agent in 2020 and potentially punt on the 2019-20 season -- when James will turn 35 -- to keep the requisite cap space open.

New Orleans has already signaled that they will be moving on from Davis and the reality is that he has likely played his last game in a New Orleans jersey. He has been removed from certain promotional advertising and media, like the player’s introduction video before the start of every home game.

“I get it,” said Davis. “It’s nothing that I can control. The team had something in mind and they went with it. I don’t think it was supposed to be like that, from what I was told, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”

As I’ve said, this is just the beginning to what could end up being a very messy departure; however, the Pelicans now have to learn from past mistakes, Davis has called it quits on New Orleans so his interests are no longer a priority. Klutch Sports will try and disguise the AD trade demand as a favor to everyone. They will pull out all the stops for him to end up in L.A, but the Pelicans need to make the decision for them, regardless of the tactics or names used to describe the organization.

Alvin Gentry defending the Pelicans and owner Gayle Benson ready to fight gives hope that better days are ahead. New Orleans doesn’t have the best reputation and losing an elite player like Davis won’t help them at all. The Davis era will go down as a failure, but through failure you can achieve your highest heights.

(FYI: This is Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks talking about failure.)

This short clip gives some insight as to what the future may behold for the Pelicans. It reminds me of the AD era as a whole, and why I am optimistic about the next edition of Pelicans basketball.

New Orleans and AD were an odd match, but through each other, they are where they are today. Ownership wasn’t prepared to harvest a superstar talent like AD. They were learning on the fly, and both parties were growing together. Davis didn’t enter the league as a superstar; he came in as a teenage talent. To their credit, New Orleans provided him an environment where he could grow as a person and work on his game in the shadows. Remember, Monty Williams often shielded him from public scrutiny during media sessions. However, they failed to find that next step, never being able to achieve any consistency once Davis blossomed into a perennial All-NBA caliber player.

The Pelicans are that toxic partner that made a lot of wrong decisions in the relationship and couldn’t make up for the mistakes. They made one last-ditch effort to make up for the loss of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, but it was a band-aid over a wound requiring plenty of expertly-sewn stitches. We’re yet to make it through this 82-game season and who knows exactly when that band-aid fell off.

Alas, New Orleans is about to watch another young talent leave out the front door. But the hope is that the organization should recover quickly, possessing the pieces to build a solid foundation immediately in Davis’ wake.

The Anthony Davis era is ending in disappointment, but the truest failure would be to make the same mistake twice by not learning from this heart-wrenching gaffe.