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Adam Silver says Anthony Davis’ trade request backfired, confirms Rich Paul said he wanted Lakers to dump Luke Walton

LeBron James’ camp wanting the Lakers to fire Luke Walton had been known for a while.

That’s why one element of ESPN’s deep dive into the Lakers – which also included details on Magic Johnson’s abusive leadership, Rob Pelinka’s mistruths and management’s horrible processes – generated only moderate interest.

Baxter Holmes, citing anonymous sources, reported LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, told NBA commissioner Adam Silver in November that Walton wasn’t the right coach for the Lakers. Paul denied that.

But Silver has corroborated it.

Silver on ESPN:

He said something along the lines that Luke Walton is not the right guy to coach LeBron. And I think my reaction was to shrug my shoulders and maybe say, “Well, who do you think is the right guy to coach?” And he mentioned a name, and that was that. I think it was all a 30-second conversation. I never thought twice about it. I certainly never repeated it to anyone.
As commissioner, I don’t want to shut people off who have a point of view. I think that was a situation where I think he was just taking advantage of the fact that I was sitting there. I think he just wanted to say it out loud. I don’t think he had any expectation that I would repeat that to anyone.

That seems like such a weird thing for Paul to tell Silver, given that it wasn’t part of a larger conversation. What was Silver supposed to do about it?

At least Paul got his wish. The Lakers parted with Walton. (However, Los Angeles hired Frank Vogel. Paul reportedly wanted Tyronn Lue.)

Paul didn’t get his way with another client, though.

He orchestrated Anthony Davis’ trade request in January. Davis got fined, and the Pelicans didn’t trade him.

Once again, Silver is sticking it to Paul.

Silver, in an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Ultimately, I don’t think it was helpful for him, either, even if he or his agent thought that was somehow in his best interest. I think that backfired to a certain degree. And I’ve known Anthony for a long time. He’s a great player, a great guy. I just think that when you know you’re going to be continuing to live and play in that market, it creates a really uncomfortable dynamic.

It definitely was uncomfortable.

But I’m not sure the trade request backfired.

By requesting a trade during the season, Davis gave himself the best chance to get to his preferred team, the Lakers. Even with a deal delayed past February’s trade deadline, he also gave interested teams additional time to build a roster that puts him in the most optimal position. Plus, he sent a strong message that makes it more likely New Orleans honors his request this summer.

The undeniable consequence was ruining the Pelicans’ season, Davis stuck sinking with the ship. The trade request backfired only if he cared about that. I’m not convinced he did.

Davis didn’t get dealt as quickly as he wanted. But if he were truly finished with New Orleans no matter what, it was probably better for him to put his exit into motion immediately.