Advertisement

Why the Lakers signed Anthony Davis for the long haul

Lakers forward Anthony Davis celebrates a three-pointer against the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Oct. 6.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, no stranger to an eyebrow-raising turn of phrase, once called the signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a gift akin to “bread” falling from the heavens to feed the Israelites.

Imagine the luxury loaves that fell from the skies Thursday once Anthony Davis, the star primed to carry the Lakers to their post-LeBron James destiny, re-upped for five years and $190 million, according to Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul. The Lakers announced the signing but not the details in the late afternoon.

“Now, Lakers fans get to watch A.D. continue to grow and lead our franchise for years to come,” Pelinka said in a statement. “This is truly a blessed moment for Lakers Nation.”

A truly blessed moment? That might be an undersell.

Advertisement

With the team heading into next season as the betting favorites to repeat as NBA champions, Davis seems primed to lead them, to further grab hold of the torch — at least during the regular season — from James, who agreed to a two-year extension one day earlier.

“I’m expecting A.D. to go for the MVP,” Lakers veteran Jared Dudley said Thursday. “I’m expecting him to set the tone.”

As the world around them has descended into chaos, the Lakers restored order in their house by signing Anthony Davis to a $190-million contract.

With a compressed break doing the Lakers no favors after the team captured the NBA championship, with load management for the soon-to-be 36-year-old James lurking, the moment might be right for Davis to show that he’s MVP material.

Advertisement

After the Lakers sent most of their young players and several draft picks to New Orleans to acquire Davis in 2019, the 27-year-old said he intended to explore free agency once his contract expired this past season. But because of the Lakers’ success and his obvious on- and off-court chemistry with James, no teams in the NBA were viewed as a significant threat to lure him away from the Lakers.

So the team went about its business in the offseason, trading for Dennis Schröder, signing Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol, and re-upping with Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris, all while Davis figured out the length and terms of the deal he wanted to sign.

With the Lakers opening training camp Thursday, Davis settled on the deal with the most money and security, electing for maximum years and guaranteed dollars instead of a shorter contract that would’ve put him into free agency sooner.

In his first season with the Lakers, Davis averaged 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists, boosting those numbers as the Lakers won their first NBA title in a decade. Davis is also regarded as one of the best defenders in the NBA, and with the Lakers needing to make a switch in the NBA Finals to better guard Jimmy Butler, coach Frank Vogel turned to Davis.

Advertisement

His numbers last year — plus the immaculate defensive reputation he’s earned with almost unmatched versatility — were good enough for sixth in the MVP vote. James finished second.

It’s hard to see how Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo can win for the third straight season after two consecutive playoff flameouts — that shouldn’t matter when it comes to things like this, but it does. The appetite to give Houston’s James Harden the award again probably doesn’t exist for the same reason.

As LeBron James signed and Anthony Davis agreed to terms, Kyle Kuzma said his representatives have been in contact with the Lakers on his own contract status.

James could make a push, but the safe bet is the condensed offseason will lead to a more conservative approach with his minutes and usage from a season ago. Same goes for the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, who has never shown any real interest in gunning for MVP unless it’s the Finals.

Advertisement

Luka Doncic will be stiff competition, but Dallas won’t be surprising anyone in the same way the Mavericks did last season.

Then there’s Davis, who said in an online interview on the league’s Twitch stream that winning the MVP award is a goal of his.

“He’s the future and he’s the now,” Dudley said.

Players who can be both the present and the hope for tomorrow don’t come around that often, and they certainly don’t come cheaply. The Lakers were always happy to pay Davis whatever he wanted, however he wanted.

Advertisement

MVP-caliber talents like Davis are afforded those luxuries. Even if the Lakers have had a lot of them in their franchise’s history, Pelinka knows guys like Davis — a credible threat to be MVP — just don’t fall from the sky.


Advertisement
Advertisement