Time’s up for Dell Demps but now the Pelicans are on the clock
Dell Demps had to know that he was living on borrowed time, and that time is finally up.
After eight-plus seasons, the New Orleans Pelicans have parted ways with their general manager, as was announced by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski just before 11:00 am Friday morning.
For those who just started paying attention to the Pelicans once the Anthony Davis trade saga began, the outcome seems directly connected to Davis’ demand to leave the franchise. However, for those who have been watching closely, the move hardly came as a surprise.
Demps entered and now leaves the Pelicans with chaos swirling around him.
When he took the job in July of 2010, the then-Hornets were reeling. Monty Williams had been hired as head coach a month before; an atypical order to appoint leadership to be certain.
The team’s ownership was in flux with George Shinn’s eventually sale of the franchise to the NBA.
Adding to the instability, Demps was faced with a frustrated franchise player in Chris Paul, who openly questioned the organization’s commitment to winning (sound familiar?).
CP3 did hang around for one more season, leading the Hornets to the playoffs and taking the Lakers to six games in the first round. But he was ready to go.
Trading Paul proved to be nightmarish for all involved (sound familiar?), creating a drama that has become the stuff of legend. It left such an lasting mark to the point that former NBA commissioner David Stern was still irate about the process and Demps’ role in it when the trade was brought up to him in an interview with Sports Illustrated last year.
“Dell Demps is a lousy general manager…and he may lose Anthony Davis,” Stern said.
Opinions will vary on the first part of Stern’s statement, but he proved to be prescient on the second.
Davis’ public trade request, just 10 days prior to the trade deadline, was likely not the “last straw” for Gayle Benson or Mickey Loomis. Rumors of Demps’ demise had been circulating since the offseason, when the Pelicans took a very public beating over their handling of both DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo in free agency.
Prior to that, Demps seemed to be done before the trade that landed Cousins in the first place. And before that, the Pelicans’ mediocre annual showings had provided Demps with such a hot seat that his suits were probably coated with asbestos to keep the flames at bay.
Yet, like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, Demps refused to die.
The Cousins trade was a reset button, as was last season’s run to the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs even after Cousins went down with an Achilles injury.
Ever loyal, even to a fault, the Benson’s continues to give Demps the opportunity to dig himself and the franchise out of the hole they found themselves in together.
Unfortunately, the hole just got deeper until a decision could no longer be avoided.
There is plenty of blame to spread around for what has transpired since 2010, but Demps’ role is too prominent for him to avoid the ultimate accountability.
With Davis now seemingly out of the picture for the rest of the season after Thursday night’s embarrassing display (which was really the “last straw”), only Jrue Holiday remains as a testament to Dell’s good decision-making.
The names Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson, Jerryd Bayless, Austin Rivers, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Jimmer Fredette, Norris Cole, Kendrick Perkins and Solomon Hill read like a graveyard of miscalculations and overpayments.
During Demps’ tenure the Pelicans have finished last in their division five times, and should finish fourth for the second time this season. Three playoff appearances have yielded a total of eight wins.
There is no conclusion to reach other than the Dell Demps era has been a failure, and it is best that we all move on.
Now, with interim GM Danny Ferry in place until the end of the season, the search for new leadership and direction can begin in earnest.
The next general manager has to decide, and do so quickly, whether this Pels roster will undergo a total rebuild or whether the team can try to remake itself into a playoff contender on the fly. Both are viable options depending on the outcome of the Anthony Davis trade. Whatever choice is made, all that one can ask is that they stick to the plan instead of throwing darts at a board while blindfolded.
With Demps gone, the attention must shift to Benson, Loomis and the Airline Highway brain trust. This next hire could be the defining decision for the future of the franchise; it will absolutely define the manner in which Mrs. Benson makes her name as an NBA owner.
They had better get this one right.
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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…