Far out of a playoff spot, and needing to protect his trade value, the New Orleans Pelicans are trying to find a way to sit Anthony Davis.
The New Orleans Pelicans are six games back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference here at the All-Star break, with five teams to usurp in what seems sure to be a fruitless pursuit of a first-round playoff exit. The Anthony Davis situation also lingers over the franchise, as he remained in place at the trade deadline and is now dealing with a shoulder injury.
When Davis remained a Pelican after the trade deadline, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the NBA would fine the team $100,000 for every game a healthy Davis sat out. But now, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Pelicans will talk to league officials this week in an effort to receive clearance to bench Davis.
As the Los Angeles Lakers made everyone this side of LeBron James available in reported trade offers for Davis heading into the deadline, the Pelicans stood firm. General manager Dell Demps seemingly paid the price for that hesitancy with his job, but waiting until the offseason to make sure there’s as wide a trade market as possible for Davis is a solid idea.
Davis only played five minutes in last weekend’s All-Star game, due to that bruised left shoulder. So he’s theoretically not healthy enough to play when the Pelicans resume play coming out of the All-Star break, and the league would have a hard time questioning his status as long as the injury remains a factor.
Of course, with 23 games to go, the Pelicans could just cut a $2.3 million check to the NBA and sit Davis from here on out. But the league has had a double standard on these matters, citing “competitive integrity” and hurting the ticket-buying public in the Davis case. The Memphis Grizzlies were allowed to keep an apparently healthy Chandler Parsons out, and the Houston Rockets were allowed to do the same when they quickly deemed Carmelo Anthony was not useful to them.
The only difference is the current stature of the player, as Davis is one of the best players in the league. But if talks with the league take place, New Orleans has precedent from this season in their corner regarding being allowed to do what they want to in regard to Davis.
Facing a future without Davis, the Pelicans need to get as high a draft pick as possible in June. Losing games will obviously help their lottery odds, and playing Davis (if healthy) naturally increases their chances to win on a nightly basis. Add in his injury history, which is really a factor by itself, and the Pelicans would take on undue risk. And quite frankly, if caught in a moment of complete honesty, Davis would probably prefer not to play the rest of this lost season in New Orleans.