SportsPulse: There will be plenty of speculation about Anthony Davis’ next destination, but Martin Rogers thinks we should stop kidding ourselves.
Anthony Davis loves New Orleans. He loves the Pelicans fans. He considers his primary professional mission to be how to make the franchise successful. He loves the Louisiana food. Heck, as an extra little lagniappe, he even talks the slang. What a guy.
We know all of this information because Anthony Davis said so, quite recently, and the good people of New Orleans tried very hard to believe him for several reasons, possibly including the fact that his stern uni-brow somehow adds seriousness to his utterances.
And because not believing him? Well, that would have just been too painful to consider.
Monday slapped away all the fiction, wiped out the nonsense that Davis trotted out over the past months to hide the fact that he’s had his eye on a bigger market and a better team, probably the Los Angeles Lakers, for a good long while now.
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All the threads of hope that New Orleans fans clung to are gone, fizzled out by the revelation that the NBA’s most valuable big man will rebuff a new contract in the Big Easy and wants out. Like, ASAP. Thanks for the memories.
There’s always some kind of hope to cling to and sometimes it is only hindsight that makes it seem forlorn. That’s how Pelicans fans were able to convince themselves that Davis signed with Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports because Rich Paul is a great agent, not because he is Rich Paul … and LeBron James’ best friend. Yes, Rich Paul may well be a great agent, but again, he is LeBron James’ best friend!
Then there were the sultry charms of the supermax provision that the NBA brought in to ostensibly help small market clubs keep possession of their top talent. Davis can make $87.3 million more in New Orleans than in any other city, cited fans and media reports aplenty, ignoring the reality that a trade kicker would make the difference far smaller than that. And the fiscal certainty that a couple of million per year would be made up for in a heartbeat by being in a major market.
According to virtually every proud citizen you meet from there, it is great to live in New Orleans and absolutely horrible at this moment to be a passionate follower of its sports teams. The Pelicans don’t deserve any sympathy as a franchise, but the fan base does. New Orleans is a resilient city that struggled through the toughest of times and, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, found sports to be a willful antidote to them.
But the Saints’ sole Super Bowl triumph is far in the rear view now, and has been replaced by a more thorny present. Days before Davis cut the cord, Drew Brees and company were denied a spot in the biggest game of all by a blown call of extraordinary ineptitude against the Los Angeles Rams. Bad calls can, do and will happen when the gods of fortune deign, yet whether right or not, Saints fans are finding it hard to shake the belief that a more high-profile team would have gotten the benefit of the doubt. Not that there was any doubt, really.
Davis’ departure is another kick in the teeth. In truth, it came about because the Pelicans have been a grim 240-302 since he was drafted with the top pick in 2012.
Hope can be beautiful, but it can also crush the soul when it turns into nothing. And frankly, when you’ve had Anthony Davis for six years and managed just one playoff series win, it can justifiably be described as nothing.
The reason why Davis is the story of the league right now, why every single team in the NBA would toss Mardi Gras beads at him if they thought it would improve their chances, is because there are so few players that are anything like him. There aren’t even any cheap knockoffs.
Nikola Jokic is a sleek passer and Joel Embiid continues to improve at the offensive end, but when it comes to men of substantial size and out-sized skills, there is only one Davis. Yet with him, the Pelicans were anything but special.
Maybe he was always going to go anyway, in search of a big city and big attention. But the Pelicans, by failing to add requisite supporting parts, ensured they never had a proper chance.
Davis will probably land in Los Angeles, and the Pelicans aren’t going to get close to full value for him, not now he has crystallized that he wants out.
Turns out this story has a Hollywood ending, and probably ends in Hollywood. As is the nature of such things, there inevitably has to be a fall guy, and in this case that role is played by a whole city. It is painful and it is unfair and there’s not much else to say about it, certainly nothing that will make anyone in the Delta feel any better.
But hey, Anthony Davis still talks the slang. For now, at least.
Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno.