Talk in L.A. was about Davis with LeBron

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DY­LAN HER­NAN­DEZ

Maybe this will re­sult in some­thing.

Or maybe An­thony Davis will be an­other Paul Ge­orge or Kawhi Leonard, a once-prospec­tive Laker who ended up some­where else.

There’s noth­ing wrong with spec­u­lat­ing about Davis’ fu­ture. He’s a great player and the Lak­ers need an­other great player to pair with LeBron James. His con­tract makes it pos­si­ble for that to hap­pen in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.

It’s cer­tainly worth pon­der­ing.

But to this de­gree? As the Lak­ers downed the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans on Fri­day night at Sta­ples Cen­ter, 112-104, an­other game was be­ing played si­mul­ta­ne­ously. And ev­ery­one knew. Which ex­plains why Davis re­ceived a warm wel­come at Sta­ples Cen­ter when he was in­tro­duced as one of the Pel­i­cans starters. As well as why, when the for­mer Univer­sity of Ken­tucky star pre­pared to take his first free throw of the game mid­way through the open­ing quar­ter, some fans be­hind the bas­ket chanted, “We want Da-vis!”

This was about to­mor­row.

That gos­sip could over­shadow the game it­self — a game in which James had 14 as­sists in a triple­dou­ble — is the NBA’s great­est strength. It’s also the league’s the great­est weak­ness.

This is what the league has be­come like in the era of the su­per teams, the few gen­uine con­tenders play­ing for to­day and ev­ery­one else dream­ing about a bet­ter fu­ture.

The so-called hot stove served to pro­mote base­ball in the sport’s off­sea­son. Bas­ket­ball’s hot stove never turns off. It’s roar­ing year-round.

The per­son­al­i­ties have be­come as im­por­tant as the games. The fu­ture has be­come as im­por­tant as the present.

In what other sport could a player joke that the moon land­ing was faked — as Stephen Curry re­cently did — and that be­come part of the news cy­cle for mul­ti­ple days?

This is like un­scripted wrestling.

The fact the Lak­ers are gen­er­at­ing more ex­cite­ment over their pos­si­ble 2019-20 lineup than they are about their cur­rent form speaks to where they are as an or­ga­ni­za­tion. James has made them re­spectable again. But this city is de­mand­ing more.

So the same fans who spent the last cou­ple of sea­sons won­der­ing what James would look like in a Lak­ers uni­form are now imag­ing who could play along­side him.

By this point, the play­ers know how to play to the cam­eras, how to feed the beast, so to speak.

No one does that as well as James, who has been in the na­tional spot­light since he was in high school.

He started the lat­est storm by an­swer­ing a ques­tion this week about what it would be like if the Lak­ers ac­quired Davis in a trade.

“That would be amaz­ing,” James told ESPN. “That would be amaz­ing, like, duh. That would be in­cred­i­ble.”

Pre­dictably, the words were ex­am­ined and re­ex­am­ined from ev­ery pos­si­ble di­rec­tion. You would have thought

Davis would be traded to the Lak­ers by tip-off.

Pel­i­cans Coach Alvin Gen­try was un­der­stand­ably irked and on the morn­ing of the game, he de­cided to make head­lines of his own.

At his team’s morn­ing shootaround, the af­fa­ble Gen­try started speak­ing to the me­dia be­fore he was prompted to do so.

“No, we’re not trad­ing him,” Gen­try said. “We’re not trad­ing him un­der any cir­cum­stance. You can move on from that one.”

Ex­cept, of course, no one did.

Gen­try was asked if he con­sid­ered James’ state­ment about his player to be tam­per­ing.

“Yes, it is,” he said. “Why would it not be?” The league dis­agreed. “Each case is as­sessed on its own facts,” league spokesman Tim Frank wrote in an email to Ta­nia Gan­guli of The Los An­ge­les Times. “In gen­eral, ab­sent ev­i­dence of team co­or­di­na­tion or other ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors, it is not tam­per­ing when a player makes a com­ment about his in­ter­est in play­ing with an­other team’s player.”

Gen­try wasn’t per­suaded.

“What else are they go­ing to say?” he said.

“If an ex­ec­u­tive said it, would it be tam­per­ing? … It’s tam­per­ing, OK?”

Davis wasn’t at the shootaround to com­ment. He was in his ho­tel room sick, but he re­cov­ered enough by game time to score 30 points and have 20 re­bounds.

In his pregame ad­dress, Gen­try made light of the sit­u­a­tion.

Asked about Ra­jon Rondo’s re­turn to the Lak­ers bench, Gen­try joked, “I can’t talk about him. He’s un­der con­tract.”

When the laugh­ter around him sub­sided, he said with a smile, “I had to use that.”

The coach then walked back some of his ear­lier com­ments on James.

“I need to say this, too, though,” Gen­try said. “We keep talk­ing, ‘LeBron James, LeBron James, LeBron James.’ He was asked a ques­tion and he an­swered it.

“If he doesn’t an­swer it, then you guys talk about him not an­swer­ing it. And he an­swers it, now ev­ery­body says he’s tam­per­ing, so I think it puts you in a bad sit­u­a­tion.”

And this is how an oth­er­wise ho-hum De­cem­ber game be­came a show­stop­per. You could imag­ine Don King some­where wav­ing his minia­ture Amer­i­can flags in ap­proval.

In the com­ing days, more words will be writ­ten and spo­ken about Davis’ fu­ture. They will ex­plain again why Davis is un­likely to be traded this year, how the Pel­i­cans won’t deal him un­less he re­jects their of­fer of a max­i­mum con­tract, how the Lak­ers have an in­cen­tive to make a deal now be­cause league rules pre­vent the bet­ter-stocked Bos­ton Celtics from trad­ing for him be­fore the end of the sea­son.

Davis’ postgame re­ac­tion to James’ com­ments fig­ure to be ex­am­ined:

“If any­body in the league says they want to play with any guy, I think that’s a pretty cool deal. But like I said be­fore, I love New Or­leans, I love the city and the fans, the at­mos­phere, the guys I play with. My job is to fo­cus on win­ning. That’s it. Noth­ing else.”

JAE C. HONG AP

The Pel­i­cans’ An­thony Davis dunked as the Lak­ers’ LeBron James watched dur­ing the first half Fri­day.

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