New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis reassured the team's fans he doesn't plan on trying to engineer his exit from New Orleans before his contract expires after the 2020-21 season, but he didn't rule out the possibility of leaving in free agency.
"I’m here until 2021, and then I'll make a decision from there," Davis said Thursday, per the Advocate's Scott Kushner. "I don't plan on leaving in the next couple of years or anything like that. I've always said I wanted to be here, and that's still true."
Davis did speak positively about the Pelicans' overall direction, per Kushner: "I think our front office is doing a better job. The best job they can do. I feel like we're moving in the right direction. But you do have to take it year by year and see how it goes. That's how I'm approaching it. Of course [center DeMarcus Cousins] is a big factor, what he is going to do or not."
To some extent, it's ridiculous that Davis has to give any assurances over his future considering he's still another three full years away from free agency. But the Pelicans are unquestionably working against a ticking clock.
Since LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign with the Miami Heat, star players have become more likely than ever to move to a different franchise in pursuit of a championship. Kevin Durant's move to the Golden State Warriors is the most obvious example.
Speaking with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski last December, Davis acknowledged winning is "how you're judged" with regard to a player's overall legacy.
A comment like that highlights how difficult it could be for the Pelicans to re-sign Davis when the time comes.
New Orleans has reached the playoffs just once since Davis arrived in 2012. The team could make it twice this season—the Pelicans are eighth in the Western Conference with a 31-26 record.
Looking toward the future, the Pelicans will have a hard time becoming a genuine title contender, especially after Cousins' season-ending Achilles injury. The team has little financial flexibility to improve the roster and few assets that could land another star player in a trade. The questions over Davis' future would make it difficult for the Pelicans to sign marquee free agents even if they had the salary-cap space to do so.
Davis remains committed to the Pelicans, but that's unlikely to matter in 2021 when he has the opportunity to evaluate all of his options in free agency.