“Accept the Lakers offer or we’ll punish you.”
The NBA would never say that to the Pelicans, right? Of course not, but actions speak louder than words and that’s exactly what they are saying.
Since the day Anthony Davis requested a trade, he and Rich Paul made it very clear that the Lakers were Davis’s destination of choice. With that being the case, why would any other team offer the farm for a player who will likely dip out once the opportunity presents itself?
So no one did, except for the Lakers who offered Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, the ghost of Kobe Bryant, the rights to the Lakers’ 1987 and 1988 championships, and two select In-N-Out franchises of their choice.
Reports are that the Pelicans believe Boston will offer Jayson Tatum in a deal this summer, making a deal with the Celtics far more attractive than LA. The small-market franchise decided that holding off until the summer to deal their frustrated superstar for a better return than they could get now was the right idea.
So that’s what happened – the trade deadline has come and gone with the Brow rocking blue and gold instead of purple and gold. Whether you agree with their decision to forgo the Lakers’ reported monster offer is another story, but New Orleans has every right to do what they feel is best for their franchise going forward.
The league clearly disagrees.
Anthony Davis booed on his first touch and cheered for his first score in New Orleans. pic.twitter.com/QJwgrWpMZT
— ESPN (@espn) February 9, 2019
The topic of conversation once the clock struck 3:01 pm on Thursday was wondering how the Pelicans would handle playing Davis for the rest of the season. Would they let him play? Would they rest him on back-to-backs? Or would they take no chances and sit him for the rest of the year to maintain his health and trade value?
Turns out they didn’t have a choice.
According to Brian Windhorst, the Pelicans were threatened with $100,000 fines for every game Davis rode the pine.
Obviously the Pelicans aren’t going to fork up that much money every game, so the NBA has forced them into a situation that could have franchise altering consequences.
The elephant in the room with the Pelicans and Anthony Davis has now grown into a woolly mammoth as he sits in the fourth quarter of a close game.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) February 9, 2019
To start, Anthony Davis has never been the gold standard for healthy basketball players and tends to head to the locker room one out of every four games. If Davis were to get seriously injured during this final stretch, that is ultimately meaningless for the franchise, his trade value will certainly tank and the team could end up with a dramatically different trade package than if he just sat out the rest of the year.
The injury risk is one issue, but the thought of Davis winning the Pelicans enough games to fall out of a good draft position is a whole different problem. You need superstars in the NBA to compete and it’s become clear over time that having a top-10 pick will strengthen the chances of acquiring one far more than one of those middling, purgatory picks around 14.
The team is markedly worse without AD, just 4-10 in his absences and 21-21 with him in the lineup, numbers that probably don’t accurately portray just how much Davis impacts the game for that franchise. Combine benching Davis with the Mirotic trade and this Pelicans team suddenly looks to be in great position to draft a possible franchise-changing player.
Strong words from JVG for the NBA and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, regarding playing Anthony Davis. Says the NBA is bullying her with fines, says the league is wrong, and that she has missed an opportunity to take a stand for her team and all small market teams. pic.twitter.com/1uBDMTxVsU
— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) February 9, 2019
New Orleans being in a small NBA market means that things need to go extra right for the franchise to be a contender. The team has had Anthony Davis for six-and-a-half years and has never been able to put a contending team around him – how are they supposed to build something without him?
Well, actually, I have an idea how. They could try holding him out to avoid injury risk and getting a Godfather offer from Boston that includes Jayson Tatum, some other players, and a bunch of picks. Not only that, but adding on a top-10 pick with Jrue Holiday and we might have something cooking down by the bayou.
Or Anthony Davis could get injured after winning a bunch of games for the Pelicans, ruining hopes for the franchise’s foreseeable future. That’s also possible.
If the league truly cared about helping small market teams, they would not be handling this situation the way they are. By forcing New Orleans to play him, the team is operating under immense risk and one wrong step could drastically impact the team’s outlook for worse.