Dinner between friends or a recruitment meeting?
After a weeklong exchange of flattery and pleasantries through the media, LeBron James reportedly had dinner with New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis after the Lakers 112-104 victory on Friday night at Staples Center.
Rumors of Davis joining the Lakers have been rampant since September, after the former Kentucky star signed with Klutch Sports Group, the same agent as James, and run by childhood friend Rich Paul.
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Some believe James secretly runs Klutch Sports Group behind the scenes, leading to speculation that the Lakers superstar could guide Davis to Los Angeles either via trade or in free agency in two years.
The Pelicans are off to a paltry start to the 2018-2019 campaign, currently sitting in 13th place in the loaded Western Conference with a record of 15-19. That led many to believe that the Pelicans could be interested in trading Davis before the NBA Trade Deadline on February 7th.
The Lakers front office is also hoping that the Pelicans become sellers in February, as they reportedly are holding on to their talented young core, in case Davis becomes available.
That report led to ESPN's Dave McMenamin to ask James about playing with Davis after a loss to the Nets in Brooklyn last Tuesday.
"That would be amazing," James said. "That would be amazing, like duh. That would be incredible."
James' comments led many NBA executives and head coaches to cry "tampering," but James doubled down on those comments after the Pelicans game saying he would like to play with a lot of NBA players, and stating, "They can't control me at all. And I play by the rules."
Shortly after those comments, James reportedly exited Staples Center and met Davis for dinner in Los Angeles.
That reported dinner between friends only threw fuel on the fire, leading fans to believe that Davis and James were meeting to discuss a coup d'état that would eventually land "The Brow" in Tinseltown.
Now, James is known to have dinner after games with many opposing players. He famously went out to dinner with Dwyane Wade after his final game in L.A., and before the game in Brooklyn, dined with friend and current Houston Rocket forward Carmelo Anthony.
However, James dinner date with Davis is different. Unlike the soon-to-be retiring Wade, and the soon-to-be free agent Anthony, Davis is in control of his own destiny and could force a move to Los Angeles either now or in two years.
If Davis wants to play with LeBron he simply tells the Pelicans' front office he is not willing to commit to New Orleans long term, and demands a trade to the Lakers.
Los Angeles certainly has the pieces to entice New Orleans and make a trade happen. If for whatever reason the Pelicans don't want to trade him to the Lakers, Davis can simply tell opposing teams he will not sign long term with them either, lowering his trade value.
Recent history shows us that teams are more than willing to trade for a one-year rental in the hopes of signing that player long term. The Oklahoma City traded for Paul George in the final year of his contract and he re-signed with them. The Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving with only two years remaining on his deal, and most recently, the Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard, knowing he will be a free agent after the season.
In that scenario, or if New Orleans refuses to trade him and keep him, then Davis can decline his Designated Player Veteran Extension (worth about $28.7 million) for 2019, and become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 and sign with the Lakers then.
Davis recently purchased a home in Westlake Village for $7.5 million, and believes he can also build his global brand in Los Angeles. Fans might have to wait another season, but its very possible "The Brow" and LeBron could team up in L.A. in the not-to-distant future.