The final year in New Orleans was anything but smooth sailing for Anthony Davis.
The now-Lakers star went through a lengthy back-and-forth with the Pelicans franchise, wanting to be traded. New Orleans did not find a landing spot for Davis before the trade deadline, leading to an awkward situation for the remaining few months.
When he did take the court, Davis — a former No. 1 overall pick and franchise cornerstone — heard boos.
Ahead of Davis returning to New Orleans for the first time as a visitor, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said on ESPN LA’s Mason & Ireland Show said that the reception Davis got was due to racial tensions and region of the country he was playing in.
“Part of the reason why New Orleans didn’t want to trade him for so long is because they couldn’t get fair value for him,” Shelburne said. “But I think the idea that a black agent was telling, not asking, telling the team, ‘You should trade him,’ and he wasn’t gonna, that did not go over well in New Orleans. Especially with, I don’t want to say, ‘That fan base,’ but you’re down in the South, man. This was very charged. And I think that when things get ugly emotionally like that, it’s not just about what’s going on on the court. It’s not just about the moves being made.”
Davis was asked if he thought racism would be a factor in the boos he expects to receiver in his return to Smoothie King Center and quickly shot it down.
“No, no,” Davis said. “Not at all.”
Ramona Shelburne Apologizes for Suggesting Racism a Factor in Anthony Davis Trade
Once Shelburne’s comments went viral, there was a good deal of backlash against the veteran ESPN reporter.
On Wednesday, she issued an apology for her statement.
“Since my appearance on LA radio Tuesday, I’ve spoken to many people and now realize that I inappropriately oversimplified a very complicated and emotional situation,” Shelburne said in the statement. “I sincerely apologize for that mistake and to the city of New Orleans.”
Anthony Davis, Brandon Ingram Looking Forward to Matchup With Former Teams
The Lakers and Pelicans eventually agreed on a blockbuster trade in the offseason that saw Davis go to the Lakers for a massive package that included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks.
The Lakers and Pelicans are going different directions at this point in the season — L.A. with the best record in the NBA at 15-2, while the Pelicans are treading water at 6-11, trying to stay out of the basement of the Western Conference.
That being said, both Ingram and Davis are thriving. Ingram is averaging 26.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game with the Pelicans. Davis has notched 2.9 blocks per game, while adding 25.1 points, nine rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
“I mean, it’s going to be me against the Pelicans and then the three guys, if they play, against the Lakers, so it’s going to be a great battle,” Davis said. “Those guys are going to try to take our heads off just to prove a point, and I don’t want to say I want to take their heads off. I just want to win it.”
Ingram responded to that statement, while speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
“I look at it as a regular game,” Ingram said. “It’s no bad blood. Nothing but respect to that organization. That’s the organization that drafted us, so they made our dream come true. We know in any game we have to be the aggressor coming in every single night, on the defensive end first of all. I think that helps out the rhythm of our offense. We are going to try to come in aggressive and have that be our identity.”
The Lakers are a 6.5-point favorite for the game, with a total of 232.