BOSTON -- Success in the NBA often comes down to how well you establish position, and leverage that position to your advantage.
We are seeing that push-and-pull game being played out before our eyes involving the NBA’s true Big Three: agents, players and teams.
The latest chapter in this never-ending narrative centers around Anthony Davis, who wants out of New Orleans, and Davis (or is it his reps?) focused on taking his otherworldly talents to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Superstars wanting to play in Los Angeles is nothing new.
We saw it with Paul George, who wanted Indiana to swing a deal with the Lakers, only to wind up being traded to Oklahoma City and later re-signing with the Thunder.
We saw Paul George 2.0 with Kawhi Leonard’s camp trying to get him from San Antonio to the Lakers or the Clippers.
The Spurs weren’t trying to hear that, working out a deal instead with the Toronto Raptors, who shipped out the franchise's all-time leading scorer DeMar DeRozan for Leonard.
This is Leonard’s first season with the Raptors, but Toronto has been among the top two or three teams in the NBA with Leonard entrenched in the league MVP conversation.
That brings us back to Davis, whose camp is trying to do what so many others have failed to do in the past - get their client to a preferred destination while the team he plays for (New Orleans) takes a deal that’s likely not the best one it can land.
And that’s the problem with most Davis-related reports centered around him going to the Lakers.
When you start examining rosters, there are a number of teams that have assets that, frankly, would trump what the Lakers could put together.
And yes, the Celtics are among those teams.
Still, the teams that are in position roster-wise to make a legit run at him, and who can provide the kind of return the Pelicans should be seeking (young talent, picks and potential salary cap relief), are hesitant because Davis (or is it his reps?) continue to feed the narrative that there are only a handful of teams he will re-sign with if a team trades for him now.
Here’s the problem with that premise.
It assumes that whatever team Davis gets traded to, can’t build or provide a culture that will make him want to stay long-term.
For a guy who has been to the playoffs just twice in his seven-year career, you’re telling me that playing on a team that gets to the conference finals or NBA Finals wouldn’t be enough to sway him to want to stick around with that franchise long-term?
If that’s true, then Davis (or is it his reps?) isn’t looking at his next move to better position himself to win.
And he damn sure isn’t looking out for what’s in the best interest of the Pelicans.
What can’t be ignored in all this, is the long-term impact of the Pelicans potentially kowtowing to a player (or is it his reps?) who no longer wants to be part of their franchise and take a deal that’s not in the best interest of the franchise.
The Pelicans have made it clear that their focus is on finding the best deal and they won’t be nudged in one way or another as far as which franchise they come to terms with.
“Although we are disappointed in this decision, our organization’s top priority is to bring an NBA championship to our city and fans and build our team for long-term success,” read a statement from the Pelicans shortly after Davis’ trade request. “Relative to specific talks of a trade, we will do this on our terms and our timeline. One that makes sense for our team and it will not be dictated by those outside of our organization.”
It sounds good and certainly plays well with their fan base, which has to have some serious doubts right about now as to whether the Pelicans’ brass will make this right.
The deals that have been reportedly made to the Pelicans from the Lakers, as of now, may very well indeed be the best offers on the table.
Still, that isn’t what should be on the Pelicans’ minds right now.
It shouldn’t be about the best deals you’ve received, but the best deal you can get.
And there is no question that the Pelicans can get as good or a better deal after July 1 than they can prior to the Thursday trade deadline, whether it’s from the Celtics or another team.
Sure, Boston will then be in play as an option with Kyrie Irving a free agent (and still more likely to re-sign with the Celtics than not) and no longer bound to the obscure NBA rule which prohibits him and Davis from being on the same team because of their contracts, this season.
However, there’s no guarantee Boston will put forth the best package of players and picks to get the deal done.
At the end of the day, there’s more at stake than a new basketball home for Davis.
The potential for New Orleans to knowingly accept a lesser deal between now and Thursday is real.
Accepting such a deal while knowing that same deal will be there in July as will more potentially better offers, would only validate some of the harsh words of criticism levied at Pelicans GM Dell Demps from former NBA commissioner David Stern.
And it would open a Pandora’s box of problems for teams with players in the future who would try a similar approach to try and leverage teams away from potentially dealing for them, and shrink the pool of possibilities to whatever they deem as an ideal landing spot.
In the end, the Pelicans have to keep their word and do what’s in the best interest of the franchise.
- MORE C's - Crunch time is Kyrie time
And that would be to wait to strike a deal after the Thursday trade deadline, no matter how badly Davis (or is it his reps?) want him in Los Angeles with LeBron James.
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