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LeBron James, Anthony Davis’ agent reveals true reason behind AD’s trade to Lakers

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Most of the NBA community expected Anthony Davis to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers long before it happened. That was Rich Paul’s intention, of course.

Davis was dealt to Los Angeles in June 2019. 10 months earlier, he signed with Klutch Sports and Paul — the agent and childhood friend of LeBron James, and someone of increasing importance within the Lakers orbit after LeBron took his talents to L.A. in 2018.

In a new interview with The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, the superagent shared insight into his conversations with Davis, in which Paul explains why he persuaded the star big-man to head to Hollywood.

His reasoning? The Lakers already had a star teammate in place (James), and are willing to exceed the luxury tax to build championship-caliber rosters.

I asked Paul what he would say to a fan who believes that once an athlete signs a contract he owes it to the team to finish it out. “That would normally be a casual fan, and the casual fan doesn’t understand the layers that come with it,” Paul said. I asked him about his early conversations with Davis about leaving New Orleans. He grew circumspect. “I educated him on why I thought the team wouldn’t be . . . ” He paused. “All athletes are competitive and confident, until reality sets in. And I educated him on things.” For a star player like Davis to commit to a franchise, “you either need your team”—a winning mix of players—“in place, or you need flexibility, assets, money, and the ability to make decisions. And, more important, the willingness to pay the tax”—the so-called luxury tax, for exceeding the league’s salary cap, which the Pelicans at that time refused to pay. “This ain’t ‘Moneyball,’ ” Paul said. He was referring to the book by Michael Lewis, in which Billy Beane, the nimble general manager of the Oakland A’s, builds a winning baseball team on the cheap by using advanced statistical methods. But, as Paul knows, nothing quite trumps money. Players have short careers, and very few will remain sentimental about the charms of a small-market existence, particularly if their team is a loser.

Paul — a mastermind behind the “player empowerment” era — was able to, for all intents and purposes, force the Pelicans to ship Davis to the Lakers after leaking that Davis was demanding a trade, yet wouldn’t re-sign with big-market franchises like the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. (Here’s a full timeline of the saga.)

Los Angeles acquired Davis for a package that included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks. As you may have heard, the Lakers won a championship in AD’s first season in town.