Some answers have been heaped on the ashes of one of the most confusing news cycles in Pelicans history, at least if you believe the version of events from Anthony Davis’ agent.
Rich Paul, the man behind Klutch Sports Group, placed the blame solely on former Pelicans general manager Dell Demps for why the superstar’s trade demand went public in January, according to comments made in an expansive Sports illustrated feature that hit the web Wednesday morning.
Paul said in the report that he informed Demps of Davis’ desire to be traded on on Jan. 25, three days before the news broke in a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
As Paul tells the story, Demps said he’d speak with Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, but instead called Davis and never reconnected with Paul. Later, Paul said, Wojnarowski called him to confirm the trade demand, and the wild news cycle began to spin.
“It was necessary to go public. When I told you, ‘Here’s our intentions,’ and you say, ‘Hey, let me talk to ownership,’ and instead … you call Anthony Davis? That’s called being ignored,” Paul told SI.
He said Demps, who did not offer comment for the story, was seemingly attempting to get between Davis and Paul to handle the situation.
“That’s a no-no. Every GM knows that,” Paul said.
The Sports Illustrated report went on to touch on the relationship between Paul and Davis — who represents clients including LeBron James and Draymond Green — and his stated desire to help him further his career, despite any reports to the contrary.
Davis was eventually fined $50,000 for the public trade demand, and the saga churned throughout the remainder of the uneven Pelicans season. Davis returned from injury weeks after the initial demand to play sparingly in 15 regular season games. Demps was fired during that span, and coach Alvin Gentry expressed his displeasure with the situation after a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I’m happy for [the team], cause, to tell you the truth, this whole thing has been a dumpster fire,” he said. “It’s been hard for guys. Everyone wants to be professional, and it’s hard for guys to go through what they’ve been through.”
Several incidents combined to fray nerves of fans and ownership, including an incident in that same Thunder win when Davis left the arena early, alongside Paul, with an apparent shoulder injury. The center went on to play in the NBA All-Star Game just days later. Benson was “livid” over the situation, according to an ESPN report.
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Davis was also spotted making an obscene gesture toward a fan as he walked off the court following a game, and was seen wearing a shirt that read “That’s All Folks” during the final game of the Pelicans’ season.
Davis’ camp pushed for a trade before the NBA trade deadline in February, handing up a four-team list of where he’d be willing to sign long-term. No trade came into existence, but the widely reported back-and-forth with the Lakers caused discord within L.A.’s locker room after their offer was leaked. At one point Lakers GM Magic Johnson accused the Pelicans of not acting “in good faith.” He stepped down from that position in April.
The saga has now stretched to just days before the 2019 NBA Draft on June 20, where the Pelicans earned the surprise No. 1 overall selection with a lottery victory last month. Newly hired Executive Vice President David Griffin met with Davis in an attempt to convince him to stick around, but reports indicated that meeting was fruitless.
Team officials met with presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson Tuesday in New Orleans, with the group dining at Commander’s Palace, according to reports.
Davis has since narrowed his focus, according to a report, saying he’d only re-sign with the Lakers or New York Knicks, throwing into question the haul the Pelicans could possibly get in return for one the NBA’s top players. Entertaining offers from asset-rich teams like the Boston Celtics or Brooklyn Nets would likely drive up that price, but Davis’ stance leaves those teams at risk of paying steeply for just one year of Davis’ efforts before he chooses to head elsewhere in free agency before the 2020-’21 season.
A report from Wojnarowski this week indicated the Pelicans were seeking a package including a current all-star, a potential all-star and two first round picks, with a third team possibly involved to maximize the return.
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Griffin downplayed the idea that the NBA draft would add an inherent deadline for a trade, saying there was “no shot clock” on the situation.
The Pelicans have the option to hold Davis up to the trade deadline of the 2019-’20 season. After that point no trade could be completed, and he would be free to opt out of the final year of his contract following the season and be free to sign elsewhere. If things got to that point, Davis would officially have to turn down the best deal available: A 5-year, $239.5-million supermax contract only New Orleans can offer.
Davis has played all seven of his NBA seasons in New Orleans since he was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft out of Kentucky.
For the full report from Sports Illustrated, click here.
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