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Bill Plaschke: Lakers had to trade for Anthony Davis, otherwise they waste LeBron James

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 6/16/2019 By Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times
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LOS ANGELES - This was more than just a trade for Anthony Davis.

This was a trade for a championship.

In dealing Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for the NBA's most dominating inside presence Saturday, the Lakers did more than just add a giant superstar.

They created a title team out of a losing team. They turned a group of underachievers into a group that can overwhelm. They returned hope to a hopelessly lost franchise, real hope, ring hope.

This was a trade for LeBron James' interest. You think he'll emotionally invest in this team now? By creating a legitimate title hope, the Lakers should start seeing the legitimate LeBron.

This was a trade for potential free agents' attention. You think somebody like Kyrie Irving would want to join this group? Maybe even Kawhi Leonard? One of the league's most unsettling environments just became its most attractive.

This was a trade for Davis' future. He is a free agent at the end of the season, and while his representatives have said he wants to play in Los Angeles, the Lakers no longer have to worry about him spending the year being wooed by someone else. He is a Laker now, and will probably be a Laker for a long time.

This was a trade for Kyle Kuzma's empowerment. They kept Kuzma! Can you believe they somehow made a major trade for a big-time star and still managed to hold on to arguably their best young player and fan favorite?

Kuzma was one of the Lakers kids whose play suffered last year when he was worried that James wanted to trade him. He should worry no more. James clearly wants him.

This was a trade for Golden State's vacancy. With the Warriors finally decimated and probably gone, the path to the NBA Finals has been cleared for another dominant West team, and the Lakers just became it.

This was, finally, a trade for Rob Pelinka's reputation. The most criticized executive in the league just pulled off a deal that makes the Lakers relevant again. He not only saved the LeBron James era from crumbling almost before it began, he also probably saved his job, and that strange sound he's hearing today is applause.

There was even this, on Twitter, from Magic Johnson: "Great trade Rob Pelinka! Job well done."

Of course, there will be boos. Some folks around the league will probably think the Lakers gave up too much.

Those folks don't understand Los Angeles, and the city's championship expectations, and the pain of the six-year playoff drought, and the increasingly big bucks paid by loyal ticket-holders to see a title while James can still move.

The Lakers have to win now, or they will be blowing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity afforded them by one of the best players ever. The Lakers have to win now, or risk losing the attention of a city that has grown sick of all the drama.

So, three first-round draft picks is a ton of picks. So what? James could be retired by the time those picks are cashed.

Lonzo Ball was an exciting player, but he was brittle. Brandon Ingram finally began showing some of his potential last year, but the Lakers are done with potential. Josh Hart was a solid role player, but the Lakers can find another solid role player.

A reminder: This is Anthony Davis. This is a 26-year-old player who has career averages of 24 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. This is a guy who can run the floor and dominate on both ends. He is one of the top five players in the league. The impact he will have while sharing the ball and court and moment with James is unimaginable.

In the end, amid a formerly desperate and downtrodden Lakers climate, who cares who won the trade?

The Lakers may have just won a championship.

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