Anthony Davis saga reaches point of exhaustion on brink of trade
If ESPN ever decides to do a 30 for 30 documentary on the Anthony Davis trade saga, they may need a few nights to tell the complete story.
As more and more reports, ‘Woj Bombs’ and leaks come out, Pelicans fans are more than ready to begin their embrace of Zion Williamson and whoever comes to New Orleans in exchange for the most-talented player in franchise history.
It’s been an exhausting waiting game that has eroded years of goodwill built between a player and a city.
The genesis of all of this goes back long before Davis’ trade request in late January.
Speculation surrounding AD’s future started years ago, as the All-Star big man was an early target of “big market” teams as the Pelicans struggled to find their footing and build a consistent winner.
Based on conversations with people close to the situation, there were members of Davis’ inner circle, including his former agent Thad Foucher and his father, that were beginning the conversation about considering a new home for AD.
The pressure to retain Davis was a clear motivator for the Pelicans’ front office as they took risks, some calculated and others desperate, on a number of players that never quite panned out.
There were injuries, internal strife, and just plain bad experience luck season after season.
As Davis publicly professed his commitment to New Orleans, he watched as his peers at the top of the NBA food chain made deep runs into the playoffs.
It had to be gnawing at Davis, who had the hardware of a superstar, but not the success.
After the Pelicans advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2018, the thought was that New Orleans was on the verge of providing Davis with that success he desired.
But the losses of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo at the start of free agency revealed the first cracks in the relationship between AD and the franchise.
Again, sources close to the situation revealed that Davis was not pleased by those defections and wasn’t warned that they might occur.
Both Cousins and Rondo have provided their accounts of how things went down, as Cousins pointed his finger firmly at former general manager Dell Demps. The now Golden State Warrior denied ever receiving a firm offer from the Pelicans, while other reports stated that Cousins had turned down a two-year $40 million dollar deal.
Rondo was thought to be a lock to return, but while negotiating a two-year pact with the point guard, they were blindsided by the Lakers, who offered a one-year $9 million contract. Rondo gave the Pelicans five minutes to match, something they couldn’t do.
What followed was a summer dramatically different than the one before.
In 2017, the Pelicans spent much of their offseason together, working out in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Lexington, Ky., building a chemistry that would result in the team’s most successful campaign in a decade.
That bonding time wasn’t nearly the same priority in 2018. While Instagram was filled with video of players hard at work; for the most part they were on their own.
But it wasn’t until September that the odds of keeping Davis for the long-term seemed to change from probable to highly doubtful.
On September 8, it was first reported that AD had fired Foucher and signed with Klutch Sports and Rich Paul.
While some dismissed the change as something driven by Davis’ desire to improve his marketing and endorsement opportunities, others saw it as a power move by Davis aimed squarely at the Pelicans and Dell Demps in particular.
In October, Davis declared himself the best player in the game. An unusually boastful declaration for the typically reserved star.
From season’s outset, Davis put up big numbers as usual, but his team was regressing not improving. He seemed to tune out at times, giving less than full efforts defensively and taking his game further from the basket.
He bemoaned the fact that he felt he needed to play “nearly perfect” for the Pelicans to win.
Behind the scenes, as outlined by Sports Illustrated, Paul was preparing to flex his power. By the time a trade demand was made, it was clear that the strategy from day one was to position Davis for a trade.
As it has been stated before, the trade demand in and of itself was understandable. It’s timing and handling, however, brought quick condemnation from all circles.
In speaking with coaches, players, and observers throughout the league, the common refrain was that none could remember ever witnessing something quite like what was transpiring in New Orleans.
Making the situation worse was Davis’ inability to stop contradicting himself with his public statements.
First there was no list of preferred destinations as Davis stated that he just wanted the chance to win. Then New York, Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Los Angeles Lakers were named as favored landing spots.
As we now know, the Lakers have always been Anthony Davis’ target. Los Angeles, in the midst of its own disappointing season, tried to strong arm the Pelicans into making a deal before the deadline.
There was no question that Klutch was working to orchestrate the deal and was willing to use whatever tactics it could to get AD into the purple and gold.
On Valentine’s Day, Anthony Davis further damaged his reputation by leaving the Smoothie King Center in the midst of a game after injuring his shoulder. With a negative light shining down on the Pelicans once again, Demps was relieved of his duties the next day.
At the NBA’s All-Star weekend, Davis was recorded on camera giving different versions of his own trade request, again claiming that each of the other 29 teams was on his list, while also stating that he did have a list of teams that he had given to the Pelicans.
It was an embarrassment to Davis and the Pelicans remained resolute in their refusal to deal him during the season.
As the season crawled to its conclusion, with Davis forced into a limited role, and the Pelicans giving valiant but losing efforts, the divorce process had already begun.
The boiling point was reached when Davis exited.
It served as a wake up call for owner Gayle Benson. Both she and her late husband had been derided as absentee leaders, focused more on the Saints than the Pels.
First, she closed the book on the Demps era with the hiring of David Griffin, one of the most respected front office minds in basketball, as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations
The Pelicans followed that up with an improbable win at the NBA Lottery, securing the right to select Williamson with the first overall pick in the draft.
Unfazed or unimpressed, possibly both, Davis remains steadfast in his desire to move on.
Fans are just as steadfast in their desire to see him go. Especially as they watch Davis and his representatives continue to attempt to manipulate the trade of a player still under contract by publicly warding off any potential suitors that don’t have LeBron James on their roster.
Now, less than a week away from the draft, many believe a deal is imminent, possibly within the next day or so. Let’s hope so.
Though Griffin has said there is no “shot-clock” when it comes to making a deal, I doubt that he wants the drama surrounding Davis to overshadow an offseason that should be filled with true optimism.
Anthony Davis is a part of what the Pelicans were, not what they will be. So with all due respect to his contributions on the floor, it’s time to consign him to the past.
At this point, whatever deal the Pelicans make will be the right one because it will allow us all to move forward into a hopefully brighter future. One that brings the Pels attention for what’s happening on the court, rather than mockery for what’s happened off of it.
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Sports 1280am host/CCS reporter
David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…