Even as the Lakers are on the brink of an NBA championship, leading the Heat, 3-2, heading into Game 6, one of their most important players is facing an upcoming deadline that will go a long way toward shaping his future.
Anthony Davis, who has teamed with LeBron James to drive the Lakers to the brink of this year’s bizarre championship, has the ability to become a free agent this year if he wants to opt out of the final season of his deal, which is scheduled to pay him $28.75 million. According to an updated schedule the NBA released in June, Davis will have until the end of October 14 to make the decision.
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That does not give Davis much time to consider his future. The Lakers want to keep him, of course, but probably would prefer that he opt-in for this season and become a free agent next year. That would give the Lakers the flexibility to pursue free agents in 2021—like Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo or Washington’s Bradley Beal.
Will Anthony Davis Seek to Check Free-Agent Options?
Davis came to L.A. last summer in a trade with New Orleans after spending the second half of last season rankling the Pelicans, trying to get the team to trade him by the February deadline. The Lakers sent out seven players and two future first-round picks to bring Davis to L.A. in the summer of 2019, confident the team would re-sign him.
Things have gone well, obviously. The Lakers finished at the top of the Western Conference, and he has gotten accustomed to playing in a big market like Los Angeles. Davis has been able to step up throughout the playoffs, though foul trouble held him back in Game 3 and a bothersome heel injury weighed him down in Game 5.
Davis has given no indication of being unhappy with the Lakers. He is thriving, the team is playing for a title and would be a contender for the foreseeable future if Davis stays put.
Still, the fear, unlikely as it may be, is that Davis could keep his options open when it comes to free agency. He is the only top-shelf free agent on the market, a market that figures to be roiled by the financial hit the league has taken because of the hiatus induced by the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Few teams are in position to sign him, but one that could create cap space is the Bulls, Davis’ hometown team. He indicated back in February, when the All-Star game was being held in Chicago, that he would be open to playing for the Bulls someday.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis Have Meshed
James and Davis have been close as teammates, with James essentially saying he has taken Davis under his wing. Davis has welcomed that characterization and has meshed with James, arguably, better than any other teammate James has had in his 17-year career.
Because Davis is able to subdue his ego to play alongside James, he has been an ideal fit.
“Jealousy and envy has killed a lot of great things, not only in sports, but in general,” James said. “If you’re able to just throw your egos to the side but continue to bring that confidence of what you’re trying to do — not saying it’s that easy — but for us, it’s that easy when it comes to our relationship. We’re not jealous of each other. I think that’s the best thing.”
How long that thing will last depends on Davis’ next move. A better view on that could come this week.
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