Davis is finally a Laker

Anthony Davis with his No. 3 jersey at his introduction as the newest Los Angeles Lakers player on Saturday. LeBron James' gesture to give up his No. 23 for Davis did not meet an NBA deadline for switched numbers and would have cost Nike millions of
Anthony Davis with his No. 3 jersey at his introduction as the newest Los Angeles Lakers player on Saturday. LeBron James' gesture to give up his No. 23 for Davis did not meet an NBA deadline for switched numbers and would have cost Nike millions of dollars due to unsold inventory.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

After a bumpy journey from New Orleans, LA's new star set for showtime with LeBron

LOS ANGELES • Wearing an easy smile and sounding relieved, Anthony Davis officially held up his Los Angeles Lakers jersey as dozens of cameras clicked away.

His introduction at the National Basketball Association team's practice facility in El Segundo, California, on Saturday night marked the end of a costly months-long courtship and the dawn of a promising partnership with LeBron James.

Yet the splashy photo opportunity, where more than 100 reporters watched Davis show off his new No. 3 jersey, was another reminder that nothing about his journey to Los Angeles has been easy.

To get here, the Lakers tried and failed to engineer a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans before the February trade deadline.

The fallout from that brazen public effort prompted the Pelicans to fire general manager Dell Demps, and it left the Lakers with a fractured locker room, leading to their sixth straight play-offs failure and setting up the departures of president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and coach Luke Walton.

When talks rekindled this summer, the Lakers had to part with three valued young prospects - Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart - as well as three first-round picks in a blockbuster trade.

Davis, meanwhile, endured the most challenging stretch of his career. His agent, Rich Paul, was fined US$50,000 (S$67,875) for lodging a public trade request.

He missed the play-offs for the fifth time in seven seasons and was repeatedly booed by Pelicans fans.

More bumps awaited once the deal was consummated as he had to waive a US$4 million trade kicker.

Then, in a final hiccup, he had to sacrifice his preferred jersey number - No. 23, which he has worn throughout his NBA career and at the University of Kentucky.

James, who wore No. 23 for the Lakers last year, had planned to switch to No. 6 so he could give Davis a welcome present.

However, the gesture did not meet an NBA deadline regarding switched numbers and would have cost Nike millions of dollars due to unsold inventory.

Despite the messiness, he expressed no regrets. "The most difficult part for me was the unknown," Davis said. "When it was announced I'd been traded, I wouldn't say it was a sigh of relief. It was just something that I've thought about for a long time.

"It was tough for me to leave the city I was playing in for seven years. I just wanted to take control of my career. As I started getting older and more experienced, I don't want to do that. I want to do it this way."

The Lakers, meanwhile, are fully convinced his talent and potential will make everyone forget the many complications along the way.

Of the six-time All-Star, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said: "There is no more complete basketball player. There is nothing he can't do. He can shoot, make plays, defend one to five, protect the rim, handle the ball. His dedication to his craft is unparallelled."

When James greeted him after the unveiling, the duo were swarmed by more than two dozen cameras - an early indication of their ability to dominate headlines together.

Davis looked and sounded especially eager to play with him and although he has advanced in the play-offs just once - sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers last year - he is already dreaming big.

The 26-year-old said: "To get a full season to see the things he does - pass, shoot, talk well defensively, great leader - I'm excited to get a lot of that this season. I'll put our roster up against anybody. In a seven-game series, I feel like we will come out victorious."

After expending so much energy and so many resources to acquire him, the Lakers plan to keep Davis at the centre of their planning.

Revealing the team would accommodate his desire to play at power forward and not as a centre like he did in New Orleans, Pelinka said: "We have to do what's best for his body. Having him bang against the biggest centres every night is not what's best for his body, our team or the franchise."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2019, with the headline 'Davis is finally a Laker'. Print Edition | Subscribe