Davis’ desire for trade should signal end for Demps with Pelicans
Early Monday morning, the worst fears of the New Orleans Pelicans and its fans were realized.
Agent Rich Paul has notified the New Orleans Pelicans that All-NBA forward Anthony Davis has no intention of signing a contract extension if and when presented and that he has requested a trade, Paul told ESPN on Monday.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 28, 2019
That made it official. Anthony Davis, the greatest player in the history of the franchise, wants out. He is willing to forego the largest contract in NBA history in pursuit of his legacy.
And that’s fine. Players have a limited window to win. Fans and media alike have made championships the most important measure of greatness. Davis made his choice.
So now what?
We can all be grateful that Davis decided to make his trade demand public prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline. I don’t say that sarcastically.
New Orleans can put together an actual plan for the rebuilding, something many teams don’t get the chance to do.
First, there needs to be change in the executive structure. Mickey Loomis, the nominal president of basketball operations, needs to step aside. The Pelicans have to rebuild from the top down, and for the franchise to truly have a future it needs leadership that understands the league and the game.
Now in his ninth season, general manager Dell Demps has led the franchise to a 307-383 record. The Pelicans have never finished higher than third in the Southwest Division and have just three postseason appearances and one playoff series win in his tenure. It’s time for change.
“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship,” Paul told ESPN.
It was Demps’ job to provide that. Unfortunately, he failed at that task. After overseeing the trade of Chris Paul, the drafting of Davis, and having little to show for either, Demps cannot be given another opportunity to remake the Pelicans.
With Davis’ demand now public, the search can begin for new leadership in the front office. Gayle Benson and Loomis can force Demps to stop any and all trade discussions prior that would be made to salvage another lost season.
Alvin Gentry should remain as head coach unless he chooses otherwise. Gentry doesn’t deserve to be removed in the middle of the season. He’s dealt with a lot over these past four seasons, maybe more than any coach in the NBA.
The next general manager should be the one to make that decision.
Next, the Pelicans have to make very quick decisions about the futures of a number of players; that list begins with Julius Randle, Niko Mirotic, and Elfrid Payton. Each player will be a free agent this summer (Randle has a player option).
Randle would be the most difficult to re-sign. Financially, the Pelicans may not be able to compete for a player averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds. Now, with Davis departing, staying in New Orleans becomes much less attractive to a young player still looking for his first playoff appearance.
The Pelicans do hold Niko Mirotic’s “Bird rights,” allowing them to exceed the cap to re-sign him if necessary. Once again, the question is if Mirotic would want to be part of a rebuild at 28 years of age.
Elfrid Payton has not had the type of season that he or the Pelicans had hoped for. If the next regime wants to keep him, he shouldn’t command much more than the $3 million he’s earning this season.
The best case scenario would be moving Randle for a second round draft pick, rather than losing him for nothing, and being able to retain Mirotic. The market should determine whether or not Payton stays with the Pels.
As for Davis…
AD is under contract through the 2019-20 season. That means that the Pelicans, in theory, have until then to make a deal. That also means the Pelicans shouldn’t feel pressured to take less than what they want simply to appease Davis’ demand quickly.
Though the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have been the teams most associated with Davis, there are a number of teams that could be in play come seasons end.
The best option for everyone is that Davis play as little as possible the rest of the season. With the push for the playoffs now over, the Pelicans have to position themselves for the best possible lottery odds. Davis, whose injury history has been well-chronicled, doesn’t need to get hurt playing in games that don’t matter.
This isn’t how we wanted this to end. We dreamed of championship banners being hung while cheering on the player of his generation.
Anthony Davis gave everything that he could to the Pelicans, but it wasn’t enough. The Pelicans tried to give Davis the supporting cast he needed, but it wasn’t enough. Hopefully, wherever Davis goes and whatever New Orleans gets in return, is enough for everyone.
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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…