AD: Injury history made me seek long-term deal

NBA

LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis said he signed the lengthiest contract he possibly could to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers — inking a five-year, $190 million pact Thursday — in part as an insurance policy should he suffer a career-threatening injury.

“That could have been a two-year, three-year deal,” Davis told reporters on a video-conference call Friday. “[But] I have to think about, also, the reality of things, too. I do have a little history with injuries, and a two-year deal, you kind of bet on yourself. … God forbid, knock on wood, something happens.”

Davis played in 62 of the Lakers’ 71 games last season, dealing with shoulder and tailbone injuries. He played in all 21 of the Lakers’ postseason games en route to the championship, but revealed to ESPN following the clinching Game 6 of the NBA finals that he played through an ankle injury that required hours of treatment leading up to gametime.

In the first seven years of his career with the New Orleans Pelicans franchise, Davis played in only 466 out of a possible 574 games.

“I want to secure the most amount of years possible and be here long term with this team, so I thought the five-year deal was best for me in my situation,” Davis explained.

While the contract gives Davis security, it also could be seen as a savvy business decision.

Davis, 27, has a player option on the final year of his deal, the 2024-25 season. Should he not pick up the option and re-enter free agency as a 31-year old, he will be eligible to sign another five-year max extension and avoid the “Over-38 Rule” that prevents players from signing long-term contracts that extend beyond their 38th birthday, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Davis could have earned more money for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons if he signed a two-year extension with the Lakers this offseason and went back into free agency as a 10-year veteran in 2022, but the difference between that scenario versus what he is guaranteed with his new deal would have been $4.7 million, according to Marks.

By sacrificing that $4.7 million, Davis assured himself approximately $90 million more in guaranteed money as an insurance policy (compared with signing a 2+1 deal this offseason, which would have been approximately $100 million guaranteed), and it will allow him to re-enter free agency when, theoretically, the salary cap will have spiked back up after the revenue hit from the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.

Davis’ deal was the climax to a significant week for the Lakers’ franchise, which also came to a two-year, $85 million extension agreement with LeBron James on Wednesday.

“I think that was just a great moment of trust,” Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka told ESPN when asked to reflect on the two deals. “I think when hard work recognizes hard work, that’s when trust is built. And that’s what we’ve really tried to be about as the front office and as the coaching staff, is we just want our players to know we’re doing everything we can to help them win and to help them be better people and to make sure all their needs are taken care of.

“And when players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis reciprocate that trust with long-term commitments, that’s just a nod to the work that they put in as players and that we put in. It was just a really, really exciting day for Lakers fans to know that our two pillars and our two leaders are here for years to come.”

Davis also shared his appreciation for James, who will be 38 and finishing his 20th season when his new contract expires.

“I’m excited for him. It’s a hell of a deal to be getting — and I told him — to be getting that type of money going into your 18th year, it just doesn’t happen,” Davis said. “It doesn’t happen, especially at his age, so that’s a testament to all the hard work he’s been putting in year in and year out, taking care of his body. And to be able to see the benefits from it. And then being able to have him continuously play like that and be able to put the team in situations to compete for championships, I’m just happy I’ll be able to be alongside that for three more years since I’m not sure if we’re going to be done or not after that.”

In pursuit of those championships there could be other hardware to be had along the way. Lakers veteran Jared Dudley told reporters he was “expecting AD to go for the MVP.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel took it one step further, telling ESPN on Friday, “I definitely think he will have an MVP trophy when it’s all said and done. I think those things are rewards and as long as your focus is on the process and winning games along the way and being the best player that you can be, that stuff comes after the fact. But, look, Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the world, and I think when his career is said and done, you’re probably going to be looking at a guy that won not only one MVP, but probably multiple MVPs.”

Davis, however, was demure when asked about Dudley’s statement. He is not about to label the 2020-21 season his personal MVP campaign.

“It’s really hard for me to kind of set goals like MVP or [Defensive Player of the Year],” Davis said. “I just kind of let that happen. I just like to let those things fall into place. If I go out there and play the way I’m supposed to and up to my potential, then those things just happen. But a goal is to win another championship. I want to be the anchor of our defense.

“My goal is to be on the floor as much as possible and not get injured. So that’s some little things that I love to set goals for myself. I don’t like to do the MVP, DPOY thing. If it comes, it comes, but it’s more so staying on the floor with my history of injuries. Those are the types of things I set goals for myself and doing whatever I can do to help the team win.”

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