Pelicans win on court, lose off court to cap wild week
When does a team have rights?
Clearly motivated not to trade Anthony Davis prior to the trade deadline, the right move to enhance and motivate additional interest in the star on the open market, the Pelicans were clearly motivated to keep him and not play him after Davis and his agent tried to force the hand of New Orleans, to bully the organization into trading him to the Lakers.
The move on the part of Rich Paul, Klutch Sports and Davis clearly did not work.
While many are quick to make Paul and Klutch the villain here, let us not forget that Davis, of his own free will and volition, made the decision to change agents. Everyone on the planet saw what was coming. Davis is the architect of this situation, not Paul.
Even if Paul advised Davis to use the nuclear option and demand a trade prior to the trade deadline, Davis did not have to accept the advise.
While you never say never, the chances of the Pelicans trading Davis to the Lakers are slim at best and that is a good thing for the NBA.
Stars control the NBA. They have for several years now.
To a degree, the very nature of the sport lends itself to that, with only five players on the floor at a time and small rosters of top players making big money.
Friday night, the Pelicans, who had removed Davis from their promotional video on the big screens at Smoothie King Center previously, were coerced, make that forced to play Davis.
Threatened by the league with hefty fines on a per-game basis if they did not play Davis, the Pelicans relented and reluctantly played the reluctant Pelican.
To say the situation is awkward is an understatement.
While Gayle Benson could have stood firm and simply paid the fines as a matter of principle, going against the league hierarchy is not the prescribed method of doing business and she knows it.
The Pelicans are stuck in an untenable situation, not because they did not trade Davis to the Lakers but because of the demands of Davis and his agent with nearly a year and a half remaining on a hefty deal given to him by Benson and the organization.
Davis was booed the first time he touched the ball. On his first touch, he dunked for the first points of the game for the Pelicans and got some cheers. He eventually got more cheers, though I’m not sure why.
There wasn’t much to cheer about after this occurred.
Fans have every right to cheer or boo at their behest. They pay for that right and I respect the right of each and every fan to express himself or herself. They love their team and want to cheer for them. That is natural.
Think about it.
The league fined Davis $50,000 for the whole publicly demanding a trade demand scenario. Even though that is the largest fine permitted, it is chump change for AD. The league would fine Benson and the Pelicans substantially more for one game, not to mention the remaining games in the season. Various sources report that the Pelicans would be fined $100,000 per game if Davis was benched.
There were 28 games remaining in the season going into last night’s game. Do the math. The league, in conversations with the Pelicans, informed them of the threat to impose the fines, based on the rule installed in 2017 which restricts team from resting healthy players.
Then, there is the second part of the ludicrous action of the league.
What if Davis gets hurt?
I get the league concern about teams tanking. The Pelicans have played very hard and competed very nicely without Davis in recent games. Of course, they are not going to win many without him. They are simply not good enough.
Simply put, the situation simply stinks. Benson does not deserve this.
Say what you want about the direction of the franchise and the job Dell Demps has done here. We have said it all on many occasions.
Davis has good reason to be looking elsewhere. No one blames him for wanting a chance to win a championship. That possibility is nowhere in sight in New Orleans.
It is how he has chosen to pursue that goal which has everyone upset and rightfully so.
Davis made his demand, starting divorce proceedings. The Pelicans chose to go through the process leading up the divorce papers being signed. Klutch Sports went after a quick annulment. New Orleans said no.
A coach and organization should have the right to play who they want to play.
Davis did not go about his pursuits in the right fashion. The league did not address the situation correctly, forcing the Pelicans do play a disgruntled marriage partner. Two wrongs don’t make a right. The whole situation is simply wrong.
As for the game, Jahlil Okafor missed the game with a sprained ankle. Davis was brilliant, for three quarters. He played just 25 minutes, scored 32 points on 11 of 15 shooting from the field, pulled down nine rebounds, had three blocks and two assists. He had 24 in the first half. He registered a plus 22 when on the floor.
Then, Alvin Gentry did not play him in the fourth quarter. I wonder if the league noticed? Was this a slap in the face at the ridiculous action of the league?
I would like to think that it is an action by Gentry to play the players who are under contract and motivated to play.
Without Davis, the Pelicans outscored Minnesota 32-29 in the final quarter to win the game 122-117. It was Julius Randle who hit the two big shots with less than a minute to play. Jrue Holiday, the new face of the franchise, had 27 points and nine assists.
The Pelicans won the game and lost ground in the lottery race.
Afterwards, Davis called the situation “awkward.”
You think? Who created it?
Fortunately, Gentry will not have to play Davis on the second of back-to-back nights. That starts tonight in Memphis. In all, there are four back-to-back game situations the rest of the way.
All of this begs the obvious questions.
Are the Pelicans a more talented team with Davis on the floor? You bet!
Are the Pelicans better off without Davis on the floor? You bet, given the circumstances.
Given what the rule and Davis have perpetuated, will this end well? I wouldn’t bet on it.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…