By Cindy Boren
The NBA trade deadline falls a little earlier than usual this year, and already there’s big news about a trade request coming from one of the league’s biggest stars.
Anthony Davis has asked the New Orleans Pelicans to trade him, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported early Monday, with Davis’s agent, Rich Paul, telling Woj that his client wants to join “a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship.” Paul added that “Anthony wanted to be honest and clear with his intentions and that’s the reason for informing them of this decision now. That’s in the best interests of both Anthony’s and the organization’s future.”
Count the Boston Celtics among the teams that would very much like to trade for Davis. You can also count the Celtics out (for now) unless they are prepared to make a very, very big move.
Because Kyrie Irving and Davis both signed their present contract extensions under something called “the Rose Rule,” the Celtics cannot currently have both players on the roster.
So just what is this Rose Rule, named for Derrick Rose, the first player to sign a similar extension?
Under the rule, which is part of the collective bargaining agreement, certain players coming off their rookie-scale contracts can earn 30 percent of the salary cap rather than 25 percent. To do so, a player must have hit at least one of three benchmarks during his first four seasons: won the MVP award or the defensive player of the year award or be named to two all-NBA teams (first, second or third). Two all-star starter berths replaced the DPOY category when Davis and Irving signed their deals.
And, if the players are still on their Rose Rule extensions, an NBA team cannot trade for more than one. Because the Celtics traded for Irving in the summer of 2017, they cannot trade for Davis or any other Rose Rule player unless Irving leaves or agrees to a new deal. Although he can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, Irving has said he wants to remain in Boston, but he cannot re-sign until July 1.
Before or after the Feb. 7 trade deadline, New Orleans has expressed no desire to trade Davis, who will be eligible to sign a five-year, $240 million supermax extension this summer. He can become a free agent in the summer of 2020.
By making this statement now, Davis has given teams other than the Celtics the jump on possible deals. One logical trade partner is the Los Angeles Lakers, as Davis’s agent also represents LeBron James, and ESPN reported that L.A. has been determined to trade for the star big man. The New York Knicks are also reportedly in hot pursuit. A Davis trade would shake the NBA and, for what it’s worth, James recently said it would be “amazing” to have Davis as a teammate.
If the Pelicans and Davis can wait until summer, the Celtics’ options expand significantly. They could have as many as four first-round picks in the draft and could put together an attractive package for Davis. In addition to the four picks, Boston could offer young standouts Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. If they want Davis that badly immediately, they’d have to include Irving in the trade. That’s the rule.
The rule was named after Rose, the 2011 MVP, when it came into effect under the 2011 collective bargaining agreement because he was the only player eligible at the time to sign the maximum extension. It rewards players who have quickly exceeded the value of their rookie deals and is intended to help the league maintain competitive balance.
Drama in Los Angeles: Change of one sort or another seems likely for the Lakers. James’s “camp,” according to ESPN, reportedly wants a change of head coach, to begin with. Now, Jackie MacMullan reports “there’s a lot of tension in that building . . . and I think people are wondering about Luke Walton even though [owner] Jeanie Buss came out very strongly and said ‘I want Luke to be here, I back him 100 percent,’ but then also made the point that has to be made, and that’s that she hired Earvin Magic Johnson to make these decisions, and if Earvin feels differently she gave him the power to make those kinds of decisions.”
“It’s clear to me, and probably to you Brian,” she told Brian Windhorst, “that LeBron’s camp would prefer a coaching change. They’re not too subtle about that. I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t.”
According to MacMullan, James himself hasn’t made that known to the front office, though.
As for getting help for James when he returns from his groin injury, Buss told “The Lowe Podcast” that she hasn’t regretted not getting another star to play alongside him. “I don’t think so, because I see progress. The team is 25-23 right now and the Western Conference is difficult. I would never think as being over .500, you would not be in the playoffs.”
But The Athletic’s Bill Oram reports the Lakers would consider parting with Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma or Brandon Ingram in pursuit of a second star and could also look at three-point shooters whose deals are expiring.
The Knicks are playing: Guard Trey Burke is being shopped by the team, with the Lakers, Warriors and Nets possible destinations for him, the New York Post reports. With center Enes Kanter on the trading block, they’re also open to trading Tim Hardaway Jr. or Courtney Lee, according to the New York Times.
Looking for Love? The six-month restriction on trading Kevin Love has expired for the Cavs, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The Cavs aren’t eager to trade the injured power forward, who signed a $120 million contract extension in July, and he wants to stay in Cleveland. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve said all along I’ve wanted to be here. I’ve said this too, it’s a business,” Love said recently. “We saw that last year at the deadline. Think every trade deadline, draft, free agency, always brings something new. It’s always different. I would love to be here. Would just love to get through a whole season healthy just because I’ve had nagging things that have taken time and been a little bit unlucky, but I would like to play ball here.”
Thon wants more time: With D.J. Wilson getting more playing time recently, Thon Maker, the 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft, has asked the Bucks to trade him, Wojnarowski reports. The Bucks and Warriors are vying for the NBA’s best record.
What about J.R.? And then there’s J.R. Smith. His large contract with Cleveland makes a trade unlikely, but he is ready to play and may accept a buyout to do so. Would the Warriors or Rockets give him a shot, Sam Amico asks?