The NBA trade deadline passed with Anthony Davis still a member of the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, February 7. Multiple teams expressed interest in Davis, who requested a trade earlier this season, but the Pelicans chose to hold onto him.
Improper behavior all around
Keeping Davis was well within the Pelicans’ contractual rights. However, the franchise’s behavior prior to the deadline is a problem for the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers made every possible effort to acquire Davis from the Pelicans. In turn, New Orleans responded by playing games with the Lakers. The Pelicans took actions during the trade negotiations to “expose the Lakers a little bit” according to ESPN insider Brian Windhorst.
The problem stems from the Pelicans’ belief that the Lakers tampered with Davis through LeBron James and his agent Rich Paul. Davis’s trade request came after James expressed an interest in playing with him last December. The Pelicans soon fined Davis $50,000 for making a public trade demand through Paul, which is against NBA collective bargaining rules.
Meanwhile, the Lakers began making offers to the Pelicans for Davis. Soon the Pelicans engaged in some of the most irresponsible behavior I’ve seen in a front office when dealing with another franchise. They leaked the Lakers offers to the public in an effort to embarrass them. The Lakers and other franchises should look at what the Pelicans did and wonder if they could ever work with them in the future.
Tampering is common
I can understand why the Pelicans would refuse to do business with the Lakers if there was evidence that they tampered with them. However, no actual evidence has come out. James noting that it would be awesome to play with Davis is not tampering. It’s simply a player stating his opinion. He never publicly asked Davis to join the Lakers, nor did any representative of the team. Yet the Pelicans still reportedly believed that the Lakers tampered with Davis and acted in accordance with that belief.
Here’s the thing: tampering happens every day in the NBA. Players always talk about who they would love to play with. It’s human nature. These guys battle against each other for months every year. They dream of winning titles and playing with the best out there. Many of them are friends, and friends talk with each other. That’s tampering in today’s NBA. That’s how James landed in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and that’s how James landed back in Cleveland for a second run. It makes no sense that the Pelicans would get upset over tampering given how regular it is, especially when there is no evidence against the Lakers.
The Pelicans’ vengeance
The Pelicans sought their vengeance by leaking multiple Lakers’ trade offers to the media. The leaks put the Lakers in an awkward position, because now their players knew they were being shopped around. That’s not how business is done in professional sports. What makes it worse is that the Pelicans leaked the trade offers to the media to show how poor the offers were.
Honestly, the Lakers probably should have walked away right there, but their reaction was understandable. The Pelicans were basically accusing the Lakers of low-balling them. Instead of shutting down trade negotiations, the Lakers leaked their own offers to prove the Pelicans wrong. The decision to leak the offers made the problem worse with the players involved. But at least the Lakers put competitive offers on the table.
The Lakers acted in good faith when engaging with the Pelicans. They made the best offers they could make. New Orleans could have said no thanks and shut the door if they didn’t like the offers. That’s what professional front offices do. Instead, the Pelicans kept the door cracked open enough to leak more trade details. They put the Lakers the horrible position of having to defend their offers. And they did it over a belief the Lakers were tampering – without evidence.
Many front offices don’t like dealing with the Lakers, so most teams won’t be deterred from dealing with the Pelicans. However, if the Pelicans were willing to hammer one franchise over a perceived wrong, what would stop them from doing the same to another Davis contender? The Pelicans front office showed itself to be petty and vindictive instead of being an example of a well-run NBA franchise. Why should the Lakers or any other franchise ever do business with them again?
There will be those that argue that the Lakers behaved poorly as well. They aren’t wrong. It was foolish of them to respond to the leaks by leaking more. Yet they did negotiate in good faith. New Orleans did not. At this point, the NBA should label the Pelicans as “buyer beware.” They cannot be trusted to act professionally.