Anthony Davis’s demands reverberate around NBA
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was pretty apparent that Dell Demps’s tenure as New Orleans Pelicans general manager was coming to an end soon. The question was when.
The answer was Friday, a day after disgruntled star Anthony Davis left a game with Oklahoma City with a shoulder injury and then left the arena to leave his coaches and teammates to answer questions about his status. Coach Alvin Gentry, also expected to be fired after the season, has grown tired of the Davis questions.
Pelicans ownership, led by Gayle Benson, has grown weary of the entire situation. Davis tried to force the Pelicans’ hand by requesting a trade nine days before the deadline, and preferably wanted to be dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers tried, and tried, and tried to get Davis, but Demps never negotiated in good faith, according to Lakers president Magic Johnson, and no deal was consummated. That was apparently good news for the Celtics, who are quite interested in the six-time All-Star, but couldn’t make a deal for him at the trade deadline unless they moved Kyrie Irving,
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had talked with Demps about potential deals this summer and told his cohort to wait instead of making a hasty Lakers deal. With Demps out and with the team likely in search of a new GM to replace interim Danny Ferry, are the Celtics out of the Davis sweepstakes?
It all depends on the conversations between Demps and Ainge and whether Ainge would bring up a similar negotiated deal with the new GM. The Celtics are considered the team with the most assets to offer the Pelicans for Davis, but how does New Orleans want to begin its rebuild?
It could start completely over and make a deal with a team for expiring contracts and first-round picks so it can begin fresh with young players. Or it can pursue a veteran-laden deal that could keep the team competitive and the interest at least above comatose in New Orleans.
Davis is a classic franchise player but Demps was never able to build an elite team around him. So he wants out and that’s understandable. The mistake he made was the power-play trade demand that sullied his reputation and forced the Pelicans into trying to rush a deal.
Was Demps fired because of his poor history of transactions? Because he didn’t make a Davis trade? Or just because his moves drove Davis to be increasingly unhappy? It’s probably a combination of all, but a new general manager means fresh talks with the Celtics and likely fresh demands.
Irving is bothered by the perception that he and Davis have somehow collaborated to play together and would only return to the Celtics if Davis is acquired. According to NBA sources, that has been the reason for Irving’s recent surliness, not his unhappiness in Boston.
But Davis’s representation, Klutch Sports, led by LeBron James’s agent Rich Paul, has tried to steer their client toward the Lakers. But there are teams such as the Clippers, who are compiling draft picks and scraping up salary-cap space to make a bid for Davis.
Also, the Celtics may not have the draft clout initially thought when the season began. The Kings are much better than expected and that pick could be in the mid-teens and not a top-five selection as anticipated. The Grizzlies pick is top-eight protected and Memphis currently has the league’s sixth-worst record.
And while the Clippers are making a spirited playoff run, they could be headed for the lottery, meaning they would keep their pick and the conditions would roll over to next year.
The entire Davis situation has been poorly handled on all sides and it cost Demps his job and perhaps Davis a retired number in New Orleans.
It will be a major story line Saturday if Davis practices freely with his teammates at the Team LeBron All-Star workout, despite the shoulder injury. Davis is also going to have to address the national media for the first time since his trade demand and explain his actions and intentions for the rest of the season.
Will Ferry shut down Davis for the rest of the season? Will Gentry last the season? Will the NBA intervene and mandate that a healthy Davis play for the Pelicans? For a player who was considered one of the NBA nice guys before this chaos, Davis’s reputation has taken a hit because of his decision to make an in-season trade demand.
Also, Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren could be a candidate for the Pelicans GM job and if that happens, how the heck does that affect talks between the teams when Ainge and Zarren are best friends.
The firing of Demps may have been long overdue and good news for Pelicans fans, but how it affects the Celtics and the rest of the NBA remains to be seen. Ainge and his brass will be interested observers at the developments over the next few weeks but they cannot begin seriously talking trade with the Pelicans until the lottery and draft time, when may major deals are brokered.
In any event, the Celtics have to be unsure about their ability to acquire Davis, and need to make plans as if it’s not going to happen.