The New Orleans Pelicans are ready to dance. They just need a partner.
Two willing participants emerged from the crowd Wednesday, with ESPN reporting both the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers were engaged in trade talks for Anthony Davis. This should come as no surprise — the Celtics and Lakers have been linked to Davis since he requested a trade in January — but there’s a chance Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin prefers dealing with Boston over Los Angeles and is handling the negotiations as such.
NBA insider Brian Windhorst floated this theory Thursday on ESPN’s “The Jump,” suggesting Griffin is using the Lakers to drive up the price on the Celtics.
New Orleans, of course, rebuffed Los Angeles’ attempt to land Davis before the NBA trade deadline in February, and while the Pelicans since have fired general manager Dell Demps and handed the keys to Griffin, there’s still reason to believe they’d rather deal with Boston.
“I think it’s a good sign David Griffin is shopping the No. 4 pick. That at least means I think he is open to a deal with the Lakers,” Windhorst said. “But I think all of this is a maneuver to draw as much as he possibly can out of the Celtics. They’ve preferred to deal with the Celtics since Dell Demps was the GM, the Lakers’ offers haven’t changed that much — they have a higher pick, but they don’t really have different players to offer. If he wanted to make the Lakers deal, and he really wanted the draft pick, he would have already made the Lakers deal.”
It’ll obviously take a haul for any team to acquire Davis, but Boston’s pursuit is complicated by Kyrie Irving’s free agency this offseason and Davis’ free agency next offseason. It’s sounding more and more like Irving will sign elsewhere, and it would be a huge risk for Boston to surrender high-end assets for Davis knowing the big man can test the open market after the 2019-20 campaign. Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, already issued a warning to the Celtics.
“The Celtics have shown great restraint the last two summers,” Windhorst said. “They did not trade for Paul George when they could have. They did not trade for Kawhi Leonard when they could have. Will they go with all their assets in and run the risk of (Davis) leaving after a year like with those two guys? We’ll have to see.”
All told, it’s obvious Boston has eyes for Davis, a six-time All-Star who’s one of the best players in the NBA. And Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge certainly isn’t afraid to roll the dice, which is exactly what he’ll be doing if he comes over the top of Los Angeles’ offer, which reportedly includes the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
“The Celtics have been thinking about this trade for a year. They’ve been practicing … to get ready for this deal for a year, for this negotiation,” Windhorst said. “David Griffin has been getting ready for this negotiation since the time he interviewed for the job. This is big time eyeball to eyeball that could define the tenures of these two guys. It’s a really important thing that’s going on.”
At some point, the Pelicans will dance. For now, the search for the perfect partner continues.