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Report: Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis have talked about teaming up in Boston

The Celtics cannot acquire Davis via trade during the 2018-19 season

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletic Boston’s Jay King reported that Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis have had discussions about teaming up in Boston.

In an article on Irving’s recent proclamations about his intentions to re-sign with the Celtics a free agent, King reports:

Heck, imagine Anthony Davis running the lane alongside Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum. That may not be impossible. Rumors about the New Orleans center’s future have persisted. It’s not time for the Pelicans to make a decision on Davis yet, but if he turns down a mega-extension next summer the Pelicans could have no choice but to trade him.

If they do, the Celtics will be one of the obvious suitors, with Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Robert Williams and/or a number of future picks including a possible top-five selection to dangle. Even if Tatum’s off the table, Boston would be able to field a competitive offer. Several league sources have said they believe Davis could end up either with the Celtics or Lakers if the Pelicans were to move him. If he landed with the Celtics, he’d be reunited with former Team USA teammate Irving. The two have already spoken about what it would be like to play together in Boston, according to a league source.

Davis has long been an object of Boston fans’ desires. And for good reasons. To start with, Davis is ridiculously talented. He’s the NBA’s best big man and arguably a top-5 overall player in the league. In addition, he seems to have shaken the injury concerns that once plagued him, by playing in 75 games each of the last two seasons. He’s increased his scoring output to 28+ points per game, and has led the NBA in blocks per game three times in the last six seasons, including 2.6 swats a night last year. And to top it all of Davis, is still just 25 years-old.

So, what’s not to like? Sure, it would cost the Celtics a pretty penny to acquire such a talent, but Danny Ainge still has an overflowing treasure chest of assets. He’s got extra first round picks coming from the Kings in 2019 (or less likely: the 76ers), the Grizzlies, the Clippers and all of Boston’s own picks. Ainge would have to pair at least a couple of those picks with one of his frontline youngsters, either Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, to acquire Davis, but that would be more than worth it.

The challenge? The Celtics cannot acquire Davis via trade this season. This is because Boston already acquired Irving via trade last year. Because both Irving and Davis signed rookie extensions as Designated Players (formerly informally known as the Rose Rule, because Derrick Rose was the first player to sign such an extension), that prohibits the Celtics from acquiring Davis. Teams can only have one such player on their team that they acquired via trade. Irving is that one player for Boston.

And before you ask: No, it doesn’t matter that neither Irving nor Davis actually met the criteria for the Designated Player extension. It only matters that those are the terms they signed under.

Is the rule broken? Depends on who you ask. Small market teams like the rule, because it keeps the big market teams from loading up on superstars on long-term contracts via trades. Despite the Golden State Warriors building the preeminent super team the NBA has ever seen, they did it through a combination of timing, luck and having players on undervalued contracts. The rule exists to keep teams from loading up via trade, not via free agency.

Back to Kyrie, AD and Boston...where does this leave us then? Essentially exactly where we are right now. Irving is a Celtic, Davis is a Pelican and neither will be playing together this season. Next summer? Now you can allow yourself to dream Celtics fans.

As soon as Irving opt out of the final year of his contract, which is guaranteed to happen, the trade restriction is removed. Because Irving will no longer be on the Designated Player rookie extension, then, and only then, would Boston be able to acquire Davis via trade.

And not to throw cold water on those lovely dreams, but there are a couple more factors to think about with Davis. The first is that he’s never indicated any desire to leave New Orleans. Whenever asked, he’s continually said he wants to be a Pelican. He’s never wavered on that.

The second is that Davis could find himself eligible for the Designated Player Veteran Extension (DPVE or so-called “Super Max”) this summer. If Davis signs that, then he can’t be traded for one year, pushing his first available to Boston season out to 2020-21. While the DPVE is still a new item (it came in to play during the current CBA), the list of players who have passed it up when offered is Kawhi Leonard’s name long. And since a player can only receive a DPVE from the team who drafted them, or acquired them while still on their rookie scale deal, Davis can only get this contract from New Orleans.

To put all together, if Anthony Davis is playing with Kyrie Irving on the Boston Celtics, it won’t happen until the 2019-20 season at the earliest. And it means Davis and Irving really wanted to play together in Boston, since Davis would be passing up some money and leaving the only NBA home he’s ever known. But, hey, stranger things have happened. A month ago the rumor was Kyrie Irving wanted to team up with Jimmy Butler in New York. Now, Irving and Davis want to team up in green. It’s the NBA and things can, and do, change in an instant.

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