Today’s NBA trade deadline figures to bring to a conclusion — for now — the latest round in the suddenly red hot New Orleans v. Los Angeles steel cage match. If it hasn’t already, of course, between the time this column was sent to press and now.
Is the Anthony Davis/LeBron James combo going to be a thing? It will seemingly take the Lakers either coming up with a major boost to its best offer at the 11th hour, or the Pelicans will hold Davis for a couple more months and re-open discussions — both with the Lakers and many others.
It’s my opinion that the Lakers have overplayed their hand in this scenario, and they’re being called on it by the Pelicans and others in the league. Is there some pettiness involved here? You bet, but it doesn’t help L.A.’s case that it simply doesn’t have the assets needed to decisively beat other potential offers.
Some have ridiculed the NOLA franchise for their tampering accusations toward the Lakers, the counterargument being that those running the Pelicans franchise only have themselves to blame for Davis’ desire to move on. Those people, in my estimation, are right on the latter point, but the tampering issue is still very much a legitimate gripe all the same.
I love NBA basketball. I was thrilled to see the Pelicans finally make a move last season, put it all together, and look like the next big thing. Within the past few months, it’s all evaporated. Some of that is on recent mistakes. Some falls on mistakes of the past.
Yes, Boogie Cousins’ injury last season was the latest bad break in a long, long series of them. But I’m also not so quick to blame “voodoo” curses for those missteps. Nobody made the Pelicans push Cousins to play 40+ minutes of high tempo basketball every single night. It’s nobody else’s fault the Pels’ bench was short to the point those heavy minutes seemed necessary to win. Nobody made them mismanage their salary cap to the point that taking a chance and paying Cousins — or retaining Rajon Rondo — became unrealistic. Nobody forced the Pelicans to retain a head team doctor who was dismissed from the Saints.
And nobody forced the Pelicans to constantly look for the kind of short term quick fixes that rarely play up in the NBA.
That said, that the Pelicans can blame themselves for Davis wanting out does not take the Lakers off the hook here. The issue is not that Davis wants out. The issue is that by Davis, or his people, insisting Davis will only sign with the L.A. Lakers, it cripples the Pelicans’ chances to get the best possible return for him.
Anthony Davis has a year and a half left on his deal. No team should be over a barrel at this point in the game, nor should most players be “signed, sealed and delivered” to any one other team.
Kawhi Leonard opened the floodgates last season, sitting the entire year in an effort to be traded—and, like Davis, the rumor was he was telling teams he’d only sign with the Lakers. San Antonio traded him to Toronto and got far less than a player of Leonard’s caliber is worth.
That’s the Spurs — the model NBA franchise and the beacon of hope for all small market teams. If they can be bullied out of a player, it can happen to anyone.
Davis’ agent, as many know, is LeBron James’ right hand man. Davis bought a house in L.A. over the summer. This is no accident and this did not happen simply because the Pels stumbled out the gate.
All of this said, who knows: perhaps if this were round one of the L.A. vs. LA feud, it would indeed have gone down as a first round KO.
But it’s indeed round two, and as we saw on Super Bowl Sunday, New Orleans doesn’t forget easily.