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No extra room for Anthony Davis what-ifs on Lakers’ path to playoffs

Taking the escalator down behind Part 107 at Smoothie King Middle in New Orleans, a rider will come nose to nose with a 30-foot portrait of Anthony Davis, beginning at eye stage with the Pelicans star’s arched forehead on the high, earlier than lining up along with his scruffy beard when the escalator ends at road stage.

Will probably be artwork installations equivalent to this, in addition to merchandise within the crew store and digital photographs on the crew’s web site that the Pelicans might be tasked with scrubbing — a lot the best way they already eliminated Davis from their intro video — at any time when they transfer on from the six-time All-Star.

Will probably be a tedious process, however a primary one on the similar time. The Pelicans will solely should erase the tangible.

The Los Angeles Lakers, the crew so able to threat all of it for The Forehead that they reportedly provided half the roster in addition to a pair first-round draft picks to attempt to purchase him, are left attempting to erase the damage that pursuit prompted their locker room.

It isn’t as straightforward as tearing down a poster and restocking some cabinets.

And particularly not straightforward when all these emotions can get dredged up once more on an evening like Wednesday when the Lakers beat Davis’ Pelicans 125-119 in Los Angeles.

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A pair days after the commerce deadline, Lakers president Magic Johnson flew to Philadelphia to fulfill the crew and delivered a message to the media that was half Jimmy Dugan in “A League of Their Personal,” half echoing the outdated cliché that the NBA actually stands for No Boys Allowed.

“Stop making this about pondering these guys are infants as a result of that is what you are treating them like,” Johnson mentioned. “They’re professionals. All of them. And that is how this league works. They comprehend it, I do know it — that is the way it goes.”

Within the guests locker room in New Orleans on Saturday, earlier than the Lakers misplaced to the Pelicans by 13 with Davis sitting on the sideline in a T-shirt and blazer, Kyle Kuzma — at the least outwardly — was portraying the steely-minded professional that Johnson described.

He was requested: Does all the pieces surrounding this recreation — contemplating the Lakers have been linked to the Pelicans for months — enter into your thought course of in any respect?

“Nope,” Kuzma mentioned.

None in any respect? Do folks hit you up, family and friends, asking about it?

“Nope. It has been lengthy gone.”

Any ideas on Davis not taking part in?

“Nah, I imply, they obtained their very own scenario. That is how they’re dealing with it. I do not actually find out about it so I can not actually discuss it.”

Others will do the speaking. Questioning if the Lakers sabotaged their season by chasing Davis so publicly. … Falling into one in all a number of criticism camps both aimed toward LeBron James for not holding up his finish of the cut price, or on the Lakers’ younger core for not rising up rapidly sufficient, or at Lakers administration for not constructing the crew correctly, or at Luke Walton for not teaching them up nicely sufficient.

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Add all of it up and simply midway via the primary yr of LeBron’s four-year dedication to L.A., the franchise finds itself at a crossroads that would decide how the whole James period in Laker Land performs out.

All they’ll do to make issues higher within the brief time period is win like they did Wednesday with Davis within the constructing. May it have been awkward for the Lakers’ core to marvel if the followers within the stands at Staples Middle noticed Davis put up 22 factors on 10-for-14 capturing with eight rebounds in 21 minutes and wished him greater than they need them?

If it was a so-called “distraction,” as so many appear eager to label it, you would not comprehend it by the best way Kuzma attacked the rim within the third quarter to get L.A. again into it after the Pelicans threatened to knock the Lakers out.

“We discuss [the negative speculation] and it could be a actuality [of being in L.A.], however we will not let that be our reality,” Walton mentioned Wednesday. “We’ve got to make that call to not let these issues get in the best way of what we wish to accomplish.”

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Kyle Kuzma disrespects his former teammate, Julius Randle, with a vicious jam.

Everyone ought to be motivated to make the postseason, overcoming a three-game hole over the ultimate 21 video games, for their very own causes.

James can say, “It is nothing I must get on this league that I do not have already got. The whole lot else for me is rather like icing on the cake,” like he did in Boston earlier this month, however going from eight straight NBA Finals appearances to lacking the playoffs would unquestionably be a nasty search for his legacy.

For Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, making the playoffs could be one other step of their skilled improvement and the joys of their younger careers. Plus, with the whole league watching the Lakers’ season unfold, this stretch will disproportionately outline how different groups will view their abilities — for higher or for worse.

For Magic and normal supervisor Rob Pelinka, it might be one other receipt they might add to the pile they hand to Jeanie Buss relating to evaluating their efficiency: Since we took over we obtained out from underneath some unhealthy contracts, landed LeBron and made the playoffs. How do you want me now?

Regardless of his dour outlook after losses to the Pelicans and Grizzlies, LeBron James took a extra optimistic outlook in L.A. on Wednesday, saying of the Lakers, “I like the place we’re right this moment.”

Because the Lakers and Celtics proceed to battle, one other crew has confronted adversity and persevered.

Here is what the groups nonetheless within the Anthony Davis sweepstakes can provide within the offseason.

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For Walton, it might be proof he simply could be the correct man to proceed to play ringmaster of this circus.

And Davis may nonetheless find yourself in L.A. However he’ll don’t have any direct affect on this playoff push. Possibly the younger guys look so good down the stretch that the Lakers resolve they might be higher off ready for Davis to succeed in free company in 2020 than reigniting commerce talks with the Pelicans within the offseason.

Or possibly they give the impression of being so good that the Pelicans change their thoughts about wanting them and they’re finally traded for Davis in July. That is the enterprise. Taking part in any lower than they’re able to to keep away from such a situation will solely damage their incomes potential in the long term.

Or possibly Boston trades for Davis and Kyrie Irving re-ups with the Celtics and all of the Davis-to-L.A. speak dies for good.

There are numerous unknowns.

What’s sure is anybody concerned with the Lakers paying any extra thoughts to Davis for the following six weeks is a waste of time.

Time to keep away from the escalator, take the steps and see the place it takes them.


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