The New Orleans Pelicans are about a step away from sticking fingers in their ears and singing “la, la, la” in order to avoid holding trade talks before next week’s NBA trade deadline. They’ve already requested the league hold a tampering investigation and now have reached an actually laughable point in these efforts to dodge the inevitable.
This latest report on general manager Dell Demps (courtesy of Dave McNenamin of ESPN) is really something to behold:
Any Lakers trade package presented to the Pelicans would include some combination of Ingram, Hart, Kuzma, Ball and Ivica Zubac, as well as a future first-round pick or picks. When that offer could occur leading up to the deadline is unknown. New Orleans general manager Dell Demps is “not picking up his phone,” a source familiar with the situation told ESPN on Tuesday.
Setting aside how frustrating it probably is for either the Lakers or Rich Paul that the guy tasked with trading Anthony Davis is actively avoiding doing so at the moment, this is objectively hilarious.
Picture Demps sitting in his office, preparing for the upcoming fire sale in which guys like Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic need to be moved before their contracts are up and they walk for nothing (Randle has a player option he almost certainly will not exercise). Demps also needs to find a buyer for Jrue Holiday, who will be paid upwards of $25 million a year for the next three years — a price tag too high for the starting point guard of a team that is likely bottoming out.
So, if anyone calls about those guys, Demps is probably an avid listener.
Mention Davis, though, and...
I have so many questions: How does Demps know what a call is about? Is he just ignoring calls specifically from
the Lakers certain teams? He was able to take a call from Gregg Popovich imploring him not to cave to the Lakers’ whims, so we know he’s taking come calls, but what’s his screening process? Is he an immediate ignore-button-hitter or does he let it ring? Does he listen to voicemail? Does he have “Anthony Davis” or “Unibrow” scrubbed from his computer completely? What if Gayle Benson wants to talk about Davis? WHAT IF DAVIS, HIMSELF, CALLS?
What’s becoming increasingly clear is that Demps and the Pelicans are doing everything they possibly can to put off trading Davis. This isn’t in the hopes of somehow convincing him to stay — that boat has sailed. This is a means to generate as much leverage by expanding Davis’ market, which will be absolutely insane come this summer.
There might also be some self-preservation at play here. Demps is the executive who wasted Anthony Davis. If he trades Davis now, he might be signing his own walking papers in doing so. By not listening to offers or using other methods to stall, he gives himself the chance that he at least makes it to the summer and, depending on the return he gets, might be able to convince his superiors to let him stick around for the rebuild.
It’s also worth noting that, as soon as Davis is traded, teams around the league are going to be calling nonstop for the other pieces of a team that was in the playoffs just last season. The longer they hold onto Davis, the more leverage they have in trying to get anything in return for those players I mentioned above.
For the Lakers, their last hope is that Benson puts her foot down and demands this band aid be ripped off sooner rather than later. If Davis lets it be known (as he is reportedly expected to) that he will only commit long-term to the Lakers, getting something done now makes some sense. As others have pointed out, the Lakers’ offer will likely still be there this summer, and will have competition. A fair question to ask, however, is how tough that competition might be if Davis makes it known he’ll only be a rental and maintains a hard-lined stance on that promise.
Do the Boston Celtics push all-in if they aren’t positive they’ll have Davis long-term — let alone if Kyrie Irving also passes on committing beyond this season? Probably not.
Do the New York Knicks really include Kevin Knox, Kristaps Porzingis and the No. 1 pick (if they get it) if there’s a risk that Davis leaves them with nothing in his departure? And even then, is it in the Pelicans’ best interest to acquire Porzingis, who will have missed a season and a half and could depart via free agency, himself?
Sure, a mystery team could swoop in (and has in each of the previous superstar trades) to blow Demps away, but if he isn’t listening to offers now at all, how can he gain a picture to what those offers might look like?
Those are all tough questions that Demps has to find the answers to, and it’s unlikely he hears those answers with his fingers in his ears.