As part of some extended comments on the offseason as a whole last week, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said that the way Anthony Davis went about getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers was “bad” for the NBA.
In case you missed them, you can find all of them here, with the most notable below (via NBC Sports Bay Area):
“I’m talking more about the Anthony Davis situation,” Kerr said on The Warriors Insider Podcast. “Where a guy is perfectly healthy and has a couple years left on his deal and says, ‘I want to leave.’ That’s a real problem that the league has to address and that the players have to be careful with.
“When you sign on that dotted line, you owe your effort and your play to that team, to that city, to the fans. And then (once the contract runs out) it’s completely your right to leave as a free agent. But if you sign the contract, then you should be bound to that contract.
“If you come to an agreement with the team that, hey, it’s probably best for us to part ways, that’s one thing. But the Davis stuff was really kind of groundbreaking -- and hopefully not a trend, because it’s bad for the league.”
There are plenty of things to disagree with about that, particularly Kerr calling out Davis specifically in a summer that also saw Paul George demand a trade after just re-signing in Oklahoma City the year before, and with (at least) two years left on his deal. If anything, that would seem to fit the bill for Kerr’s comments even more than Davis letting the Pelicans know he wouldn’t re-sign there next summer, and where he’d like to go so that they could get assets for him (and so he could leave sooner and go where he wanted, to be fair and not make it sound like Davis was solely being altruistic).
But it would seem I’m not the only one who took issue with Kerr’s comments. His former player — and current Laker — Jared Dudley told Ethan Strauss of The Athletic that he felt like Kerr’s comments missed a few key points:
What did you think of Steve Kerr’s comments on Anthony Davis and players not playing out their contracts?
You know what, I am a huge Steve Kerr fan. Obviously, he traded for me. I was in Phoenix with the same agent (Mark Bartelstein). That’s the only time I think I’ve disagreed with him. Because, why can’t a player ask out of his contract if what you sold him on changed? Happens all the time. Hey, we want to win, but now we’re going to rebuild. Vice-versa where a guy gets traded after a year when there are three years left on his contract. And so why can a team be able to trade but a player can’t ask for a trade?
Now, the only difference of this is the perception. Paul George asks for a trade, but no one knows about it. But Anthony Davis comes out and because it’s public, now he’s getting killed, just because it’s public. So you know, the way for players to do it is in private, but obviously he thought he couldn’t get out of there if he did it privately. And so people ask for trades all the time, all the time. And so I just don’t understand Steve’s stance on that because, if you run your organization well enough, Anthony Davis was in New Orleans, he didn’t make it past the second round in eight, nine years. Like, what do you want him to do?
Dudley points out something that has been the easy retort to New Orleans Pelicans fans and others who questioned Davis saying he wanted to win, but heading to the Lakers (who haven’t made the playoffs in several years). For one thing, the Lakers have LeBron James, and as such would seem to be much closer to the timeline Davis is on, and for another, the Lakers haven’t failed him year after year after year like the Pelicans have.
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone (friendship or otherwise) where the person just lets you down enough times that you’re just done hearing “I’m sorry”? I obviously don’t know if that’s the point Davis got to with New Orleans, but it would seem to be a rational inference based on his actions. In that case, it’s not surprising that he wanted out, even with Zion Williamson and new (and promising) general manager David Griffin on the team now.
There is also the fact of the matter that the Pelicans had every opportunity to make Davis want to stay — even at the expense of Davis’ own freedom of choice — by virtue of a collective bargaining agreement that essentially guarantees that in almost every case a franchise will get no less than seven years to keep a good lottery pick on their roster due to restricted free agency and other mechanisms.
So Kerr (and to some degree Dudley) are sort of right that Davis could have handled things more privately, but it’s also clear that doing so may not have gotten him what he wanted. And players only have as much power as the league dictates they should have. This isn’t really a slippery slope scenario because what Davis did is only possible for a few players every decade.
If anything, based on how much interest in Davis and the league is set to increase this season now that he’s with the Lakers, it was bad for the NBA that Davis didn’t demand a trade sooner.
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