Late Thursday, Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps confirmed that Davis would continue playing for the team rather than be held out to guard against serious injury in advance of the trade sweepstakes that will likely emerge closer to the draft. Davis had not played since Jan. 18 because of a finger injury followed by the team not wanting to risk an injury. Demps confirmed he would be back on the court soon.
“Ultimately, Anthony made it clear to us he wants to play and he gives our team the best opportunity to win games,” Demps said in a statement.
The Lakers on Thursday were left trying to recover from the instability wrought by their pursuit of Davis as they seek to make the playoffs in James’s first season in Los Angeles. They entered Thursday’s play at 27-27, good for just 10th place in the West, after falling to a humiliating 42-point defeat in Indiana on Tuesday night. The one-sided loss, against the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers, left little doubt that the mounting trade speculation surrounding the likes of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma was taking a toll on the Lakers.
When the Lakers couldn’t acquire Davis on Thursday, they did trade the Croatian center Ivica Zubac — who was among the promising young players mentioned as potential parts of a trade for Davis — along with Michael Beasley to the Los Angeles Clippers in a deal for forward Mike Muscala. The move opened a roster spot for the Lakers that will allow them to seriously consider signing the former All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, but Los Angeles will have plenty of other options on the free-agent market as various veterans become available following the deadline.
As the Davis talk cooled on Thursday, much of the focus leading into the deadline centered on the Grizzlies, who wound up trading Gasol but keeping their point guard Mike Conley, who had drawn serious trade interest from the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons.
Conley, 31, has two seasons, with a combined salary of $66 million, left on his contract after this one, which convinced the Grizzlies that trading him closer to the draft in June might yield a better offer. Gasol, though, can become a free agent at season’s end, so Memphis had to trade him now or risk losing one of the game’s best two-way players without compensation this summer.
Charlotte and Memphis engaged in serious trade talks regarding Gasol earlier this week, which prompted the Spaniard, who has only played for the Grizzlies — and who played his high school ball in Memphis after the Grizzlies imported his brother Pau Gasol from Spain — to clean out his locker.