King James excited to partner 'bro' Davis

Lakers send Ball, Hart and Ingram and 3 draft picks to Pelicans in exchange for the big man

LOS ANGELES • Anthony Davis, one of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) most dominant big men, is joining LeBron James in Los Angeles after the Lakers agreed to a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday evening.

In exchange for the All-Star centre, the New Orleans Pelicans will be receiving a vast haul in the form of guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, forward Brandon Ingram and three first-round draft picks, including the No. 4 pick in this year's draft, which is set for Thursday.

But the Lakers were willing to part with all those assets so they could pair Davis with James, who had been clear for months - dating all the way to February when the Lakers tried and failed to engineer a deal - that he wanted to play alongside him.

The trade was confirmed by two people with knowledge of the deal who were not authorised to discuss it publicly, with ESPN first breaking the deal, and James took to social media to express his excitement.

He said on his Instagram page: "AD on da way! Let's get it bro! Just the beginning... #LakeShow."

The Lakers' former president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson, also tweeted his approval, saying: "Laker Nation, the Lakers are back in a championship hunt! Congratulations to the entire organisation. I know LeBron James has a big smile on his face. I'm loving this!"

The team no doubt felt a great deal of urgency to trade for the 26-year-old Davis, who averaged 25.9 points and 12 rebounds with the Pelicans last season, after a hugely disappointing year - James' first in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James guarding Anthony Davis during their 112-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at the Staples Centre last December. They will play together next season as the Lakers aim to make the play-offs for the first time sin
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James guarding Anthony Davis during their 112-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at the Staples Centre last December. They will play together next season as the Lakers aim to make the play-offs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They finished well out of play-off contention with a 37-45 record after the All-Star forward missed a significant part of the second half of the term with a groin injury.

James, 34, was still highly productive when healthy, averaging 27.4 points, 8.3 assists and 8.5 rebounds in 55 regular-season games.

But he is now preparing for his 17th season as a professional and, with three years left on his Lakers contract, the team want to maximise the time that he has left as one of the league's best players.

With that in mind, the Lakers plan to make a strong push to sign Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets when free agency begins on June 30.

The Lakers are expecting to have more than US$30 million (S$41.1 million) in salary-cap space to pursue the All-Star guard to fill their void in the back court created by the departure of Ball and Hart.

Though Walker has said he will give the Hornets first crack to re-sign him, he is also expected to be pursued aggressively by the Dallas Mavericks as well as the Lakers.

James, a four-time Most Valuable Player, still wants to vie for NBA championships, and the race in the Western Conference next season may be fairly wide open with the Golden State Warriors facing something of a modest rebuild of their own.

Guard Klay Thompson and forward Kevin Durant, two members of their All-Star core, suffered devastating injuries in their NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors, and the duo are expected to be out for a year.

Both players are bound for free agency and, while Thompson, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, is likely to re-sign with the Warriors, Durant will still have several suitors despite tearing his Achilles tendon.

According to Ric Bucher of the Bleacher Report, Durant and "Kyrie (Irving) have met and have continued to discuss playing together next season".

The Boston Celtics' All-Star guard will be a free agent in the summer with all reports predicting that the Brooklyn Nets is his desired destination.

REUTERS, NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2019, with the headline 'King James excited to partner 'bro' Davis'. Print Edition | Subscribe