Is it title or bust for Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers? How will the All-NBA big man adjust to sharing the court with LeBron James? What would Davis have changed about his public and prolonged exit from the New Orleans Pelicans?
Following his introductory news conference, we sat down with the Lakers’ biggest summer acquisition as he dished on his new franchise, leaving New Orleans, his involvement in recruiting Kawhi Leonard and why he’s not yet thinking beyond 2019-20 in Los Angeles.
ESPN: What does it feel like to hear, “Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Laker?”
Anthony Davis: It’s different. Something that I’m excited about, you know. But it sounds weird, for sure.
ESPN: I mean, this isn’t just any team. It’s a team where there are 10 NBA trophies sitting on the ledge behind you. Have you ever even been in a room with an NBA trophy before?
AD: Not until now [laughs]. Not until now. That’s motivation right there. Anytime I walk in here and I see these trophies and see the banners and see the stars around — I get excited, and I’m ready to start it.
ESPN: Getting here didn’t come without a cost for you, though. You asking for a trade in the middle of the season was very unpopular, and then that request and the botched nature of the negotiations after that is what a lot of people think derailed two teams’ seasons. Why do it? Why do it then, instead of just waiting until the summer?
AD: I knew I wasn’t gonna sign an extension and that my time in New Orleans was definitely coming to an end. And, you know, I see a lotta people that say, “Wait –” or “You shoulda did it this way, that way.” But for me, I’ve been in the league long enough. I’m a grown man. I know what I want. And so I thought doing it at that time was definitely going to be beneficial for myself and for the organization to get the best package available, so that way the organization is still set.
ESPN: Do you wish you did anything differently?
AD: No. I wish I did it the way I did it. I’m a person who’s very upfront and honest. You know, I want to tell you what it is. I love the city of New Orleans, but from a professional standpoint and occupation in basketball, I felt like it was time for me to move on.
ESPN: You and I have talked a lot through this last season. And every time we talked, you made it so clear to me that this was about you taking control of your life. Why was that such a big theme for you this year?
AD: Because I allowed people to tell me what to do and advise me to do this or that. And now, by me being able to take control of my career, any decision that I make, you know — I can sleep at night. I’m good. That was the biggest thing for me. I was having a lot of regrets and thinking, I should have done it my way. Or, I should have done this differently. But now it’s like, when I do it my way — I’m able to sleep at night and not care what other people’s opinions are.
ESPN: You’re also a dad now, right? How much does becoming a father make you think, “All right, it’s time to be a grown-up and think of my family and make decisions?”
AD: I thought coming to the league at 18 makes you grow up. But, you know, like you said, being a father definitely — well, you can’t really understand it until you’re a parent [laughs]. And so now, anything I do is not just about me. It’s about her, as well.
ESPN: Well, I see her around your neck right there [points to a necklace with a photo].
AD: Yeah, everywhere with me.
ESPN: There have been some players, like Kevin Durant, who’ve come out publicly and said, “I won’t play with LeBron because of all the other stuff that comes with it.” Why was it something you did want to do?
AD: I don’t really care about the media attention. You know, I just want to play. And, obviously, playing alongside one of the future Hall of Famers in LeBron makes it a lot easier. So, I know it’s gonna come with the territory, but at the end of the day, I focus on the end goal, and that’s about winning the championship.
ESPN: You were trying to add yet another superstar also with Kawhi. How were you involved in recruiting Kawhi?
AD: I mean, Kawhi’s not a big recruiter guy, that’s what I heard. So — I would send him texts every now and then, but then just be like, “Is this too much?”
ESPN: I love that you’re just like everyone else, like: “How do I talk to Kawhi? Is it too much? Am I texting too much?” It’s like going back to dating. Right?
AD: Yeah, you really don’t know. Yeah [laughs].
Anthony Davis recalls the moment he was traded while watching a movie, leading him to ignore his agent’s phone calls and learn his fate on Instagram.
ESPN: How often did you, LeBron and Lakers GM Rob Pelinka talk on the phone during that crazy week of free agency?
AD: Oh, all the time. It was, like, every 30 to 45 minutes, Rob would be callin’ me.
ESPN: No, come on.
AD: No, seriously. Rob would call me: “AD, what you think about him?” “All right, cool.” Right back, “AD, you know, this is what is going on with him.” “All right, cool. All right.” Sometimes I had to tell him, like, “Rob, I’m in the movies.” He’d be, like, “All right, well, call me as soon as you get out.” But we’re trying to put the best team around us, and I think he did a great job of doing it.
ESPN: You’ve come here and said already, “I’m here to win titles.” Rob Pelinka told the media, “Anything less than a championship is not a success.” Are you guys worried you’re setting the bar a little bit too high here?
AD: No. We have a standard, and that is it, you know. Especially for me as a player. If I don’t win the championship, then that season was not a success.
ESPN: At your introductory press conference, they introduced you as someone who they hope will be a “pillar of the Lakers for a decade to come.”
ESPN: You’re only signed through this season. Do you think you will be a pillar of the Lakers for years and years to come?
AD: Honestly, Rachel, I’m just focused on this season. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have one year here, so I’m going make the best of this year. And when that time comes around in the summer or, you know, whenever the season’s over — hopefully, around, you know, mid-June, after we just had a parade, and I need a couple days to think — then we can talk about that. But until then, I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team win this year.