Anthony Davis views Kevin Garnett as a cautionary tale.
Back in May 2010, a couple years after he was traded to the Boston Celtics and just before LeBron James fled the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, The Big Ticket offered candid comments about the perils of loyalty in the NBA. He had spent 12 years with the Minnesota Timberwolves during his initial stint and only made it out of the first round of the postseason once—and he missed the playoffs altogether over his final three years.
Many people see Davis traveling a similar path with the Pelicans. They’ve clinched a playoff berth just once in his first five years and could be headed for another lottery appearance now. And though he could soon sign a massive designated player extension, he’s currently on track to hit free agency in 2020 (player option), after grinding out his eighth season. Few expect the Pelicans to be in a position to contend by that point, which has most, in turn, wondering whether Davis will ever use the threat of his imminent departure to coax them into moving him.
“Yeah when you hear that, it makes you think,” Davis said of Garnett’s quote. “I’m not going to lie, it makes you think. You wonder if you’re following in that same path. But then again, you think this year could be the year. You don’t know. You just have to take it year-by-year and see. See where the team is going. What direction they want to go to and see where they’re headed.”
Celtics fans will see this as an opening. Really, though, it’s Davis expressing doubts experienced by every player who cares about winning. He’s not committing to leaving New Orleans. He’s not guaranteeing he’ll still be around in five years either. He’s communicating an intent to win, and nothing else.
And while the Pelicans should no doubt fear his upcoming foray into free agency, the time to panic isn’t now. They don’t absolutely have to trade him until 2019, when he’s a glorified expiring contract. And even then, they’ll have the leverage that comes with the DPE, along with, perhaps, some additional cap space to use as a selling point for other free agents.