Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, right, smiles as he walks past New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

With both teams plagued by sickness, the Los Angeles Lakers ended their recent losing skid thanks to a 112-104 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. 

LeBron James was a game-time decision and Anthony Davis was questionable due to separate illnesses.

The Lakers didn’t need more things to worry about after losing three of their last four games, but they got back on track against a struggling New Orleans team that’s dropped three straight games. 

Both superstars wound up playing, seemingly trying to show each other up. James posted his third triple-double of the season with 22 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds. Davis finished with 30 points and tied his season high with 20 rebounds.

Kyle Kuzma continued his recent hot streak, leading the Lakers with 23 points. This marks his third straight game scoring at least 20 points. 

   

Anthony Davis Needs the Lakers More than the Lakers Need Anthony Davis

Despite the continued insistence from Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry that Davis won’t be traded, this summer is going to tell New Orleans’ front office what it needs to know about the five-time All-Star. 

Per The Athletic’s Sam Amick, the Pelicans’ ability to offer Davis more money than any other team may not be a big factor in his next contract. 

According to a source with knowledge of Davis’ thinking, he does not see the extra $87.3 million that New Orleans is expected to offer in a five-year, $239.5 million supermax extension this summer as a factor in his eventual decision,” Amick wrote. 

Even in a league in which players carry an exorbitant amount of power, the Lakers are in a unique position where they can pursue Davis on their terms. 

On ESPN’s Woj & Lowe show (h/t RealGM.com), Adrian Wojnarowski reported Los Angeles is saving all of its assets—future draft picks and young players—to pursue Davis in a trade next summer. 

For as much talent as Davis has, he needs the Lakers more than they need him at this point. James has given this franchise the spark that’s been missing since the end of Kobe Bryant‘s prime.

Los Angeles is currently the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference with James and a roster of comprised largely of players with fewer than three years of experience and veteran castoffs.

Meanwhile, Davis is stuck with the Pelicans, who have been unable to figure out how best to maximize his talents. General manager Dell Demps has tried being bold, acquiring DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings and giving Jrue Holiday a max extension in July 2017. 

Yet the Pelicans have one playoff series win in two postseason appearances since Davis’ rookie season in 2012-13. That limited success hasn’t done anything to stop him from going hard every single time he steps on the court:

The Lakers don’t know how far their current collection of talent will go in the playoffs, but barring some sort of collapse, they look like they will make it that far. The Pelicans are one of four Western Conference teams under .500. 

Los Angeles also has the benefit of carrying a max contract spot heading into this summer. Potential free agents include Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker. 

New Orleans’ starting lineup against the Lakers included Solomon Hill and Tim Frazier. This situation doesn’t help Davis at this stage of his career. 

The Lakers would look much more formidable with Davis, but they are already among the best teams in the West without him. He needs the spotlight they can offer more than they need him to succeed. 

   

What’s Next?

The Pelicans will remain in California for a game against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. The Lakers will stay home to host the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET. 

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