Earlier this week, Anthony Davis was fined $50,000 by the NBA after his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, went public with his trade request. Ultimately, that’s less than what Davis makes in one quarter, but retired Lakers guard Kobe Bryant believes the fine is a symbol of a larger issue in the league with team-player relations.
In an interview with Power 106, Bryant said that he believes players like Davis should have the freedom to be open about their desire to play elsewhere:
“Players should have the freedom to be able to speak their piece, and listen, management certainly does that. I’ve been very lucky to play with the Lakers, a class organization that takes care of their players. But a lot of players aren’t that fortunate, man, and at the first sign that they can improve themselves, they’ll cast you aside.
“You can’t just have it one way and say ‘okay, players need to be loyal to organizations’ but not demand the same thing the other way around. So until that day happens, players should definitely have the opportunity to speak up and control their own fate. That’s just the way it should be. It’s fair.”
The issue of loyalty is one that came up from Davis’ father, Anthony Davis Sr., who said he would “never” want to his son playing for the Boston Celtics because of the way they treated Isaiah Thomas.
“This is just my opinion, not Anthony’s,” Davis Sr. told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. “I’ve just seen things over the years with Boston and there’s no loyalty.”
However, Davis wanting to leave New Orleans has less to do with loyalty and more to do with respect, for lack of a better term.
Davis has been with the Pelicans for seven years. In those seven years, New Orleans has made the postseason twice and has won just one playoff series, which is only one more than the Lakers have won since 2012.
The Pelicans tried to build something resembling a contender in 2017, when they traded Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and draft considerations for DeMarcus Cousins, but they let Cousins walk in 2018 because of legitimate concerns over how he would recover from his Achilles tear. Cousins is now providing valuable minutes for the Golden State Warriors with just six games under his belt.
The Pelicans’ failure to take risks and build a team around Davis is what ultimately led to his desire for an exit from the organization. It’s what nearly led to Bryant’s departure from the Lakers in 2007. A year later, they acquired Pau Gasol in a blockbuster trade, Bryant won two more championships and spent a total of 20 years wearing the purple and gold.
The Lakers took the risks the Pelicans weren’t willing to, and those same risks could be what leads A.D. to L.A., whether it be before the trade deadline on Feb. 7 on in free agency in 2020.