Twice on the afternoon of June 15, Anthony Davis’ phone rang while he tried to enjoy a movie at the Nobu Ryokan Hotel in Malibu. He ignored the call both times. It was his agent, Rich Paul. Then it occurred to Davis — maybe something was up. So he took to Instagram to find out what.
That’s how he learned the saga of the last five months had ended and that he finally was going to be a Laker.
“It was all a blur,” Davis said.
Saturday at the Lakers’ training facility, Davis sat between general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Frank Vogel wearing a bejeweled bumble bee on his blazer and laughing at the memory of that day. The Lakers introduced Davis at a news conference that LeBron James watched from the back of the room. Pelinka lauded Davis’ ability and shared a vision of building around him for years to come.
But Davis stayed in the moment. Calm and charismatic, the Lakers’ 26-year-old superstar big man promised nothing except that he would spend the next year doing everything he could to win a championship.
“When that time comes around next year, then you can ask me that question and we’ll revisit it,” he said. “Right now, my focus is on this year, and trying to figure out how I can help this team, and help the organization, become a championship team.”
Davis asked the New Orleans Pelicans to trade him in late January, and from the start the Lakers were one of his preferred destinations.
“I just wanted to take control of my career,” Davis said. “It was always people kind of telling me ‘we need to do this, we need to do that, we need to do this.’ And I’d just kind of go with it. I was young and I was like ‘OK, I feel like this person has the best interests for me or whatever.’ And then as I started getting older, started getting more experience, I was like ‘I don’t want to do that. I want to do it this way.’ And as long as I can sleep at night and live with the decision that I made, I’m happy and I don’t really care what no one else thinks.”
For Davis this was about his happiness and his legacy.
As soon as he could, Davis started working with James to help Pelinka create the right type of team around them. Both Pelinka and Davis said they and James were constantly on the phone throughout free agency as Pelinka sought their advice on which players to sign.
And one thing Davis wanted was a big, bruising center to play a position the 6-foot-10 big man would rather not.
“I like playing the four,” Davis said, referring to power forward. “I’m not even going to sugarcoat it. I like playing the four. I don’t really like playing the five.”
He turned toward Vogel, smiled and put his hand on Vogel’s shoulder.
“If it comes down to it, coach, and you need me to play the five, then I’ll play the five,” Davis said.
Said Pelinka: “We want a decade of dominance out of him here, right? So we got to do what’s best for his body, and having him bang against the biggest centers in the West every night is not what’s best for his body or for our team and the franchise.”
Securing Davis marked a big win for the Lakers one month ago. Since then, other teams have added superstar power. Russell Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets to join another MVP and former Oklahoma City teammate in James Harden, while Paul George forced a trade to the Clippers to join Kawhi Leonard. In the East, the Brooklyn Nets signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
Davis isn’t worried about the league-wide arms race. He welcomes it, actually.
“I’m excited about it, and I would put our roster up against anybody,” Davis said. “I feel like that in a seven-game series, that we would come out victorious.”
It’s been six years since the Lakers could even think about talking like that.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli