There have been two behind-the-scenes dramas happening with Anthony Davis over the past week.
One was his trade demand from the New Orleans Pelicans. The other was what would happen in the event the Pelicans didn’t trade him, which looked more likely by the day. Would New Orleans continue to play Davis or make him a healthy scratch for the rest of the season, as they did for several games before Thursday’s trade deadline?
Two days before the deadline, Rich Paul, Davis’ agent, called the league office and expressed concern that the Pelicans wouldn’t play Davis if he weren’t traded, sources told ESPN. Paul told the league that Davis wanted to play.
Given that a possible injury could affect future trade value and perhaps improve draft positions, there was a growing expectation that the Pelicans might put Davis on ice for the last 27 games of the season.
The Pelicans, as they dealt with the Davis situation and other matters around the trade deadline (they made two deals), put the final decision off. At the time, there were some voices within the organization supporting the option to not play him, sources said.
After reviewing its rules, the league office informed the Pelicans that they would be expected to play Davis, starting with Friday night’s nationally televised game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, sources said.
The league referred the Pelicans to rules put in place in 2017 that restrict teams from resting healthy players. The Pelicans, league sources said, were told that they would be subject to a fine of $100,000 per every game if Davis were benched.
Davis was fined $50,000 last week for breaking league rules when Paul publicly made a trade demand, the largest fine permitted.
After the trade deadline passed with Davis remaining on the team, the Pelicans requested a meeting with Davis to discuss the rest of the season. In that meeting, Davis told the Pelicans that he wanted to return to the floor — he recently missed three weeks with a finger injury — and play in as many games as possible.
The Pelicans knew they would likely lose in arbitration if they benched Davis. But there was an option of drastically reducing his playing time. After discussions, the team decided it would act “ethically” and return Davis to his previous role as starter and centerpiece of the team, sources said. They also want to follow league rules.
Although it might cost them draft position — the Pelicans are 20-21 when Davis plays and 4-10 when he doesn’t this season — and risk injury, the team wanted to respect Davis’ wishes, sources said.
Davis and the team agreed that he would not play in back-to-backs — likely starting with Saturday’s game in Memphis after he was set to play Friday vs. the Wolves — and that his minutes would possibly be reduced. An agreement was reached that Davis will consult with the team on which ends of back-to-backs he will play in the rest of the season, sources said.
Ultimately, the understanding avoided a standoff that might’ve dragged into next weekend’s All-Star Game, in which Davis will be representing the Pelicans.