METAIRIE, La. — Anthony Davis wore a dark blue Pelicans hoodie with the sleeves cut off and "New Orleans" printed in red letters across the chest.
What he said after Friday’s practice, however, left no doubt that his heart was somewhere else.
"I gave the city, organization, fans everything I feel like I could," said Davis, who is in his seventh NBA season and turns 26 on March 11. "I don’t know how long I’m going to play this game. People’s careers are short and I feel like it’s my time to move on."
The All-Star forward and centre, who recently informed New Orleans he would like to be traded, said his intention remains to play for the Pelicans as long as he is healthy and under contract with them.
Whether that happens remains in doubt.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry declined to be pinned down on the matter.
"We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it," Gentry said.
Davis has missed six games since spraining his left index finger at Portland on Jan. 18.
"Obviously, it’s a tough situation, but my intention is to still play," Davis said, adding that he could understand if the Pelicans would rather sit him out until they’ve decided where to ship him.
"If that’s what they want to do then they have every right to do it," Davis said. "I just want to let them know that when I’m ready to play and able to play, I’m ready to suit up."
While Davis and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James share an agent, Davis said he has never provided New Orleans a list of preferred destinations and added that where he winds up is "on the Pelicans."
"I never gave them a timetable, never gave them a destination," Davis said, emphasizing that the Pelicans have shown him "nothing but respect … and I feel like I need to do the same thing for them.
"I wanted to do it now just for the simple fact that they have enough time to make the best decision for the organization," Davis said.
Since Davis’ request, the Pelicans appear to have been also mulling over what to do with not only the former face of the franchise, but also several other prominent players as the NBA’s trade deadline approaches on Feb. 7.
Forward Julius Randle, forward Nikola Mirotic, guard E’Twaun Moore and guard Elfrid Payton have not played since Davis’s agent made public on Monday his client’s desire to be traded.
Some of the sitting players are listed with minor injuries that they’ve played through previously. Consequently, the Pelicans played without five of their six most productive players the past two games.
Gentry suggested recent absences were health-related, not because the Pelicans were protecting certain tradeable assets.
"I don’t know if the trading deadline is going to mean, ‘Oh, we’ll sit this guy out and not play him in a particular game."’ Gentry said. "It has not been done since I’ve been here, where we said, ‘Don’t play this guy because the trading deadline" is approaching.
Davis did not make any immediate public statements for four days after agent Rich Paul made the trade request public, for which Davis was fined $50,000. He broke his silence after Friday’s practice.
Davis is under contract with New Orleans through the end of the 2019-20 season.
He was drafted by the Pelicans with the first overall pick in 2012 after winning an NCAA national championship with Kentucky and has been named an All-Star in every season but his rookie campaign.
However, the Pelicans have made the playoffs in only two of his six full NBA seasons and won only one playoff series, sweeping Portland in the first round last season before falling in five games to champion Golden State in the second round.
Davis has averaged 29.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game this season, but the Pelicans have fallen to 23-29 heading into Saturday night’s game at San Antonio.
Had Davis been committed to remaining in New Orleans, he would be eligible this summer for a five-year, roughly $240 million extension with the Pelicans that would have kicked in beginning with the 2020-21 season.
The Pelicans appear inclined to honour Davis’ trade request rather than lose him for nothing. But a statement from the franchise made it clear that Pelicans brass are prepared to be patient while awaiting a deal done on their terms and timeline.
The implication is that a trade may not come until after the season, when 2019 draft slots are known and when the Boston Celtics are eligible to enter the fray.
Boston, which has a stockpile of draft picks and promising young players as trade bait, is not eligible to trade for Davis under NBA rules until July 1, unless the Celtics also trade away Kyrie Irving. Irving is a factor because of what’s known as the Rose Rule, which says NBA teams cannot trade for more than one player who has signed an extension. Irving currently is playing under an extension signed with Cleveland that has an option year after this season, meaning it could be renegotiated in a way that also allows Boston to bid for Davis.