UPDATE: When confronted with this rumor, Benson was pretty strong in her denial. It would make sense for her to deny this, as the rumor as presented just isn’t very smart from a business perspective. The original story continues below.
Per the “over my dead body” reports out there regarding Gayle Benson, the Lakers and Anthony Davis.— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU) May 17, 2019
I have spoken to Gayle.
She laughed at the report and called it “totally absurd,” and “completely untrue.”@wdsu @basketballtalk @Rachel__Nichols pic.twitter.com/IXE2ck1VNv
Gayle Benson apparently shares some hard feelings toward the Los Angeles Lakers. Her New Orleans Pelicans found themselves in a what could be called negotiations with L.A. for a decent chunk of the season last year for Anthony Davis. Those talks did not go at all well for anyone involved — as evidenced by Davis still currently being employed by New Orleans.
One of the many problems in those talks (which were flawed on both sides, by the way) was the appearance that Benson flat out would not send Davis to the Lakers. Based on what Jackie MacMullen of ESPN is saying, that stance hasn’t changed.
We have been told, I think, through channels – most of us have heard this same scuttlebutt – that Gayle Benson has basically told (David Griffin), “To the Lakers, over my dead body.”
Now, it has to be pointed out that MacMullan’s quote here was from before the lottery took place. Since then, New Orleans has landed the first pick and the Lakers had the No. 4 pick fall out of the sky and into their lap. One thing that can help an owner come off such a hard-lined stance is the idea of immediately replacing their previous generational talent with Zion Williamson, their next one.
With all that said, this really isn’t all that smart if it really is Benson’s walking orders for Griffin. For starters, why hire the guy if it isn’t to put you in the best position possible moving forward after the Davis era? On that level alone, this isn’t a good look at all, and can’t be a great first impression for the beginnings for Benson’s working relationship with Griffin.
That all makes me think this likely isn’t coming from New Orleans, as this paints Benson as a meddling owner who doesn’t trust the people she hires to do what’s best for her franchise. With that as context, the question can be asked: Who benefits from this leak?
Well, very obviously every other team looking to land Davis this summer benefits from the Lakers (or any other serious bidder) having their chances at even being taken seriously minimized in this fashion. MacMullan herself even says this is scuttlebutt from around the league, and not directly from New Orleans. Just something to think about.
Look, all this could merely be posturing and the quote itself holds a lot less meaning given how the lottery played out. This merely could have been a rallying cry for a fan base that at the time appeared heading towards losing Davis with no imminent replacement. That’s changed now that Williamson will in all likelihood be a Pelican in a month or so.
One thing the Lakers can’t do here is let these negotiations drag on all the way into training camp — let alone the start of next season. Just like Benson has every right to make her stances as owner of the Pelicans (as illogical as they might be), Jeanie Buss could put her foot down having seen the impact such public negotiations had on the Lakers last year.
It just makes sense for all involved to get this done as quickly and painlessly as possible. For New Orleans, they’ll want to get their team set so as to carry as much of this Williamson momentum as they can. For whoever trades for Davis, they’ll want to get everything else in order so as to convince him once and for all to stay come next summer. Both of those priorities suffer the longer this drags on.