Heisler: Lakers still No. 1 in Anthony Davis Derby, despite what others are saying

first_imgPelicans GM Dell Demps went days without returning Johnson’s calls, a breach of NBA manners that suggested how disinterested the Pelicans were, and how angry they are over what they can only regard as wanton tampering by the Lakers and LeBron.Magic finally tired of raising his own offers and withdrew, leaving a ringing silence with no other teams calling.Segue to summer.As involved as this far-flung, star-studded story is, some things remain clear:• Davis’ preferences will drive his part of this.Going all-out to make it happen now, A.D.’s people leaked the four teams he would consider signing with:The Lakers, with LeBron;The Clippers, dreaming of signing Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant;Milwaukee, alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.New York, dreaming of signing K.D. and Kyrie Irving.The Lakers remain the favorites for A.D.Davis began this, hiring LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, in case A.D. wanted to get to the Lakers.That meant asking New Orleans to trade him, which Davis wasn’t ready to do after last season’s 48-34 finish … until the Pelicans went south this season, showing how hard realizing his exalted career goals would be there.If this is still an open competition you can’t underestimate LeBron’s magnetism and ability to wheel and deal in plain sight while staying between the lines. Last week, he all but acknowledged his role in this, noting he loves being able to “put teams in position to compete for championships.”James tried for years to get other stars to join his Cavaliers without success, but he’s not in Cleveland anymore.• The Clippers are in this, big time.Showing how far they’ve come, they made A.D.’s list, suggesting they’re now seen as a prime destination under Steve Ballmer & Co., rather than a joke under Donald Sterling.Last week’s six-player trade essentially sent Tobias Harris to the 76ers for two first-round picks – after the Clippers learned they were on A.D.’s list – to acquire assets to offer the Pelicans.This isn’t just about A.D. The Clippers have one max slot, can probably create a second one and could conceivably land multiple superstars … like the Lakers.The Clippers are pursuing the same superstars the Lakers are. Nor can the Lakers enjoy facing off against their own fabled icon, Jerry West, the Clippers consultant whom they never bothered to try to bring back, themselves.• Both local teams showed they were ready to blow off this season for the opportunity at hand.With Johnson offering six players and two first-round picks, literally half his roster, and all their names in the papers – Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley – the Lakers were out on their feet in a 42-point loss in Indianapolis, amid reports of angry words between embattled Coach Luke Walton and veterans Javale McGee and Beasley.Fans on the road crooned “LeBron’s going to trade you,” as Lakers shot free throws.Johnson then flew to Philadelphia to meet the team, where he will encourage all to be professional about finishing the season … after which, of course, half of them will be gone.In other words, good luck, guys, while you’re still here.Meanwhile, Clippers coach Doc Rivers got the word from upstairs that this season’s gallant run was over.“I guess the good news there is being an eighth seed, seventh seed or sixth seed is not our goal in the long run,” said Rivers, swallowing hard. “We want to be champions.”So this season was fun while it lasted, assuming you’re not Walton.• The Knicks are in the hunt for A.D., too, kind of.K.D. and Irving, who are pals, have reportedly mused about joining forces there for months.Now with A.D.’s people telling everyone Kyrie won’t stay in Boston, the Knicks leaped into action, dumping their adored Kristaps Porzingis to clear cap space.Lending credence to the scenario, the amiable K.D. went nine days without talking, then railed at the press for speculating about him and the Knicks … having started it by turning down a $150 million extension for a one-year deal after winning two titles with the Warriors.“Y’all come in here every day, ask me about free agency, ask my teammates, my coaches,” he said. “You rile up the fans about it. … What’s the problem? What am I doing to y’all?”Meanwhile, Irving, who said he would stay in Boston, now refuses to deny reports he might leave, instead noting, “I don’t owe anybody (anything).”The Knicks are also drooling at the thought of getting A.D., but that’s only possible if they draw the No. 1 pick for Williamson, who they could then trade to New Orleans.Even with their NBA-worst record, the new anti-tanking odds leave the Knicks with only a 14 percent chance at the No. 1 pick.• The Celtics aren’t likely to pursue A.D. for long.The Pelicans have a fallback plan if they can’t get Jayson Tatum: Take other young Celtics such as Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier with the cream of GM Danny Ainge’s collection of first-round picks.However, the Celtics, who long dreamed of Davis, expected him to welcome their interest. Instead, his people made it clear A.D. doesn’t want to play there, with horror stories leaking from everywhere, including Anthony Davis Sr., who said – unfairly – that the Celtics mistreated Isaiah Thomas … whom they traded for Irving.Under these circumstances, Ainge isn’t likely to offer a boatload of assets, the more so with the risk of losing Kyrie.• The Pelicans are eyeing Williamson as avidly as any NBA player.With a 40-inch vertical leap at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds in stocking feet, the Duke star is stirring rare excitement … even as scouts debate how well he can play inside with an 8-7 standing reach, less than some point guards.Unfortunately, their goal of getting him can only come to fruition if Williamson goes to a team that would trade him, such as the Knicks.The other teams best positioned to draw the top pick (Cavaliers, Hawks, Suns) are rebuilding and would keep Zion.• LaVar Ball is still out of his gourd.Related Articles Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThis just in: With the Pelicans adamant about waiting until summer, there was no A.D. Derby to fall out of.Of course, the Pelicans aren’t the only ones upset at seeing the Lakers close in on Davis. The entire NBA, all other agents and, by proxy, many other press outlets were rooting for them to fail … but not doing the impossible isn’t failing.Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.Johnson had no shot but went all-out anyway since A.D. and LeBron were dying to do it now … with Magic willing even to forego the chance of adding another star this summer with the maximum salary slot he would lose by trading for A.D. now.Nothing has changed. The Lakers were in the best position before and remain so as long as they’re A.D.’s top preference.From the moment Davis dropped the big one on them, the Pelicans wanted to wait until the summer when all teams could bid, including Boston with its array of prospects and first-round draft picks … and they would also then know who won the lottery for Duke phenom Zion Williamson to see if they could get him.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years With everyone talking about their preferences, there was no way we weren’t going to hear LaVar’s … although his son is a mildly accomplished, second-year player and no one cares what either of them prefers.“We want to be in L.A., but if he’s traded I don’t want Lonzo in New Orleans,” LaVar told ESPN. “Phoenix is the best fit for him and I am going to speak it into existence.”Unfortunately for LaVar, the Pelicans not only like Lonzo, they reached their zenith last season when they were starting two point guard alongside each other, Jrue Holiday and Rondo.Speak away, LaVar. We’ve got a few months to kill and everyone will enjoy the laughs.Mark Heisler has written an NBA column since 1991 and was honored with the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Award in 2006. His column is published Sundays in Southern California News Group print editions. No, the Lakers didn’t just blow it.An Anthony Davis trade was always going to happen in the summer, no matter what A.D., Magic Johnson, LeBron James, the press and the hordes on social media yearned for.It shouldn’t have been surprising that the deadline passed with A.D. stuck in New Orleans, but it was.Myriad media platforms – although none of the mainstays doing first-hand reporting – said the Lakers had fallen out of the A.D. Derby, pointing fingers at Magic Johnson, even asking how long he’ll run the Lakers.last_img

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