CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Pelicans forward Anthony Davis spent more than 10 minutes of his All-Star Game media day news conference Saturday being remarkably candid about his decision to request a trade away from New Orleans and about the destinations he would like to eventually wind up in.
That candidness included Davis addressing one of the biggest questions surrounding his future leading up to the NBA's trade deadline: Why weren't the Boston Celtics -- the team almost universally hailed as the one with the most assets to acquire him in a trade -- not on his list?
"They are on my list," Davis said.
That was just one of several jaw-dropping moments during Davis' 24-minute meeting with the media Saturday. He discussed not only the possibility of playing for the Celtics but also why he would be interested in joining the New York Knicks, the firing of Pelicans general manager Dell Demps on Friday afternoon and why he asked for a trade out of New Orleans in the first place.
"I'm just keeping it real, to be honest," Davis said with a smile, when asked why he was being so forthright about his future. "I knew that's all you guys wanted to talk about. I just stated how I feel, stated my intentions, and we'll go on from there."
The most significant of those stated intentions, however, was Davis' willingness to go to Boston. With young forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and a plethora of draft picks -- most notably a protected first-rounder from the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies that could become unprotected in 2021 -- the Celtics have enough to beat any other team's realistic offer for Davis.
The one thing that could have stopped them, however, was being unsure of Davis' willingness to stick around after he can become a free agent in 2020. That, in theory, could have opened the door to Davis' top destination, the Los Angeles Lakers, where he could play alongside LeBron James and instantly return the Lakers to championship contention. New Orleans, however, was underwhelmed by the Lakers' collection of young players (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball) and draft picks, and negotiations became both public and acrimonious on both sides.
Highlighting that point was Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson declaring last weekend in Philadelphia that the Pelicans did not negotiate in good faith in their talks about Davis.
In the days leading up to the deadline, sources told ESPN that the Celtics -- who couldn't trade for Davis until this summer because they had already traded for Kyrie Irving, who also is on a designated rookie contract extension -- remained steadfast in their desire to acquire Davis, with the belief that partnering him and Irving would be enough to not only turn the Celtics into a contender in the East but also to convince Davis to stay in Boston long term.
Once the deadline passed, that belief only grew in Boston.
Landing Davis this summer also could be necessary to keep Irving, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Irving said earlier this month that his previous stance that he was fully committed to re-signing in Boston after the season had somewhat changed.
"Ask me July 1," Irving said.
Davis, though, was happy to talk about his future in mid-February. When the Celtics came back up in the wake of him saying they were on his list, Davis repeated a variation of the same phrase -- "I never said Boston was not on my list" -- three times. He subsequently went on NBA TV and declared that "all 29 teams" were on his list, which ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported before the trade deadline was initially two teams -- the Lakers and Knicks -- before later expanding to the LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks.
"Market [size] doesn't matter to me," Davis said. "I just want to win. Big market, small market, it doesn't matter. My focus is on winning at this point in my career. And wherever that may be, it could be a big market or a small market, I just want to win."
Davis was asked why he would be interested in playing for the Knicks, who are on his list while sporting the NBA's second-worst record at 11-47.
"It's a great franchise," Davis said. "Playing obviously at the Garden, the city ... but also Milwaukee is on that list, too. It doesn't matter about big market, small market; it's about winning for me.
"[The Knicks] have a nice little team, [but] I don't go look at teams. ... I'm still with the Pelicans. I'm still representing the Pelicans. I don't go out and look at other teams and say, 'How can I fit here?'
"When that time comes, that time comes. My job right now is to go finish these last 20-something games in New Orleans and see what goes from there and owe it to myself to leave it all on the court and to the fans or the NBA or myself to go out there with my teammates and compete at a high level."
Regardless of all the talk of lists, Davis made one thing clear: He doesn't plan on signing an extension anywhere -- be it a preferred destination or not -- until he can become a free agent in 2020. That's because Davis would stand to make significantly more money by opting out of the final year of his contract, becoming a free agent and signing a new deal with either the team that trades for him or somewhere else.
"Market [size] doesn't matter to me. I just want to win. Big market, small market. It doesn't matter. My focus is on winning at this point in my career. And wherever that may be, it could be a big market or a small market, I just want to win."Anthony Davis
But even if it is the prudent financial move, going such a route would force any team that trades a significant haul of assets to acquire Davis to have to wait for a year to make sure he was willing to stay there.
"Obviously teams are going to have their offers," Davis said. "There's a time in free agency where I'll get a chance to go out there and see. It's about the best situation for me, the best fit for me. When that time comes, I'll have to re-evaluate my situation and see what market best fits me and go from there.
"I'll be a free agent in 2020, and I'm going to test free agency, but no matter what, I'm just going to play basketball. That's all I'm going to do."
To that end, Davis -- who said he plans to play in Sunday's All-Star Game, although he is still unsure whether he will be able to after suffering a muscle contusion in his shoulder Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder -- said he wants to play out the remainder of the season with the Pelicans, rather than being exiled from the team until a deal can be worked out this summer.
"That's their decision," Davis said. "Obviously it's a business, and I understand that. When we were talking in the beginning about playing or not playing, I understood from their perspective. My job is to play the game of basketball, and that's what I'm going to continue to do."
Davis was asked for the first time about the firing of Demps, who was dismissed Friday afternoon after Davis left Thursday's game before it ended to get an MRI on his injured shoulder. Demps selected Davis with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft.
"I didn't know anything about it, but obviously the Pelicans have to do what's best for them," Davis said. "My intentions are still the same, no matter who the GM is or whatever. My intentions are still the same. The Pelicans made a move that was best for their organization, and for me, I'm still going to go out there and play basketball for obviously [Pelicans interim GM] Danny Ferry right now and go out there and continue to play basketball with my teammates and play the game the right way."
Davis said if Pelicans fans disapprove of him for leaving that he would understand, but he hopes his tenure in New Orleans -- which includes six All-Star appearances, including an All-Star MVP award two years ago in The Big Easy, and three first-team All-NBA selections but only two playoff appearances -- will be judged favorably.
"I've been here seven years," Davis said. "I love the fans there. I mean, it's hard to me to define my legacy. I think the people of New Orleans will be able to do that more, based on their opinion.
"But for me, I was in that community, going out there every day and trying to help my team win, night in and night out, playing through injuries, having fun with my teammates, and so I think they'll remember a guy who wanted to go out there and win and play for the team, play for the organization.
"My job is to play basketball. The fans can have whatever opinion they want. Hopefully it's a good opinion, but if not, I'll understand."
As for all that's happened in the three weeks since his agent, Rich Paul, went public with his trade request, Davis said the fact it hasn't worked out isn't anything that he is worried about.
"It wasn't stressful at all for me. I had a plan, and I had steps to follow that plan and did what I'm supposed to do," Davis said. "Obviously I knew there was a chance it probably wasn't going to happen, because the Pelicans have to make that decision [of whether to trade me]. But I followed that plan, and like I said, nothing happened, so I'm still here playing basketball until the end of the season."