NBA Rumors: LeBron James Hints Anthony Davis Was Victim Of Smear Campaign Run By New Orleans Pelicans

James says on his HBO show that negative stories about Davis started when star center requested a trade out of New Orleans.

Anthony Davis poses with Lebron James
Dominique Oliveto / Getty Images

James says on his HBO show that negative stories about Davis started when star center requested a trade out of New Orleans.

After Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans All Star center and 2012 top overall draft pick, demanded a trade from the team that has made the playoffs only twice in his seven seasons there, as SB Nation reported, one of the NBA’s most dramatic trade sagas began, and ended with a whimper. Davis remains a Pelican, at least until the end of the 2018-2019 season.

But in an excerpt from his new HBO talk show, The Shop, that was released online Thursday, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James appeared to hint that Davis’s trade chances were torpedoed in part by a smear campaign that emanated from the Pelicans, according to a report by TMZ Sports.

On the program, set to air March 1 on HBO, James hosts a discussion with Davis and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, in which the players discuss “public relations” campaigns run by teams against athletes who decide to start “doing your own thing.”

“That’s the narrative they try to create once you doing your own thing,” Brown tells James. “It’s like, this guy’s a distraction. He’s this type of guy.”

James then cites the example of Davis to support Brown’s point.

“Seven years in the league, nobody’s ever said anything negative about (Anthony Davis), but you can tell when the narrative changed when you don’t do what they want you to do,” James says on the show, which may be viewed in the video clip below.

Whether the Pelicans ran a smear campaign against Davis is not confirmed and may be pure speculation on James’s part. What is certain is that the Pelicans have, without explanation, placed Davis, who remains the team’s top player, on a program of restricted minutes, as The Ringer noted.

Davis and James faced each other on the court Wednesday night, with the Lakers defeating the visiting Pelicans by a 125-119 score in Los Angeles, as CBS Sports reported. But in the game, Davis played only 20 minutes, though in that restricted playing time, he scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Anthony Davis drives past Kyle Kuzma.
Anthony Davis (foreground) was restricted to just 20 minutes in Wednesday’s Pelicans game against the Lakers. Yong Teck Lim / Getty Images
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But the most publicized moment of the game came when James sank a three-point shot with 33 seconds remaining on the clock, and the ESPN camera quickly cut to Davis, sitting on the bench, who reacted with a visible smirk. Watch that sequence in the video below.

The moment led Tas Melas of the NBA.com podcast The Starters to speculate that the reaction by Davis was a clear indicator that Davis planned to end up with the Lakers over the offseason.