AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersDavis’ public trade demand last month has created a swirl of chaos that has everyone in the league paying attention. Owners and front offices are asking if it should be concerning that Davis, a top-five player early in his prime, can attempt to force his way out of town with a year and a half left on his contract. Players are asking why it’s wrong for a star to ask for a change when teams can trade away talent in a snap. And it’s a debate that seems unlikely to end neatly even after Davis is traded – if he is traded at all.The Pelicans fired General Manager Dell Demps on Friday, looking for new leadership to handle the transition from the Davis era. Davis himself remains unmoved.“Obviously, the Pelicans are going to do what is best for them,” he said. “They need to do what’s best for them. My intentions are the same, no matter who the GM is.”The heart of the discussion – power, self-determination and who possesses it – has always been a historically difficult tussle for the NBA. And in an era when players have more ability to choose where they go than ever before, there’s a shrill cry from smaller NBA markets that if the current trend holds, it will be difficult for them to retain their superstars from the clutches of teams such as the Lakers, traditional powerhouses situated in big markets and desirable locations.That’s often been the case in the league, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver was quick to point out Saturday that the competitive balance of the league is, in one sense, as even as it has ever been in correlation to market size. The Lakers, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls have all struggled of late. Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions CHARLOTTE, N.C. — He hunched forward in his seat and wore his black hoodie draped over his head. On the court, Anthony Davis is imposing. Off it, the flat timbre of his voice comes off almost as meek.But the 25-year-old, 6-foot-10 forward is at the center of a seismic grinding of powerful forces that has left much of the NBA restless. And he only added to the tension as he spoke throughout a 25-minute session on Saturday morning.He said he does indeed have a list of franchises he would like his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans, to trade him to. He acknowledged New York and Milwaukee, two teams previously reported to be desired destinations, are on that list. So is Boston, though that wasn’t reported. And even though Davis later tried to amend his comments, saying he would be willing to be traded to all 29 other NBA teams, it didn’t put a lid on the whispering, the speculation and everything else that has driven this saga along.“I knew that’s all y’all wanted to talk about,” Davis said roughly two-thirds of the way through the session, as a handler attempted fruitlessly to convince the media to ask questions related only to All-Star weekend. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Pistons forward Blake Griffin can have sympathy rooted in the other side of the power dynamic: The Clippers traded him seven months after he signed a massive contract extension (including an elaborate free agency presentation in which they enacted “retiring” his jersey), so he understands as well as anyone in the league that teams’ loyalty is a mere matter of convenience. Many players do, he said.“We realize as players that it’s not always, I don’t want to say ‘fair,’” he said. “But as players you make sure you support guys. Guys know whatever decision they make, that’s the decision that’s right. You don’t want to peer pressure someone into staying with a team if they’re not happy.”For now, the Pelicans and Davis have reached a difficult detente: Davis is permitted to play, but is often pulled late in games. He’ll finish out his seventh season in New Orleans, and it’s unclear how long into his eighth he’ll have to wait. In the meantime, speculation about his next stop will continue to swirl.Amid Saturday’s media scrum, someone asked him if he envisions playing alongside LeBron James.“Yeah, I will,” he said. “On Sunday in the (All-Star) game.” Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers But the speculation around teams such as the Lakers and Knicks – and the salary-cap room they possess – has also heightened a level of sensitivity around the potential of tampering. The Lakers have been fined twice in the past two years under the NBA’s tampering guidelines, and as recently as last week, the league had to look into whether Magic Johnson’s comments about Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons violated league policy (they did not).The nature of the NBA is for young players to talk to former greats and ask for advice: That’s what the league found Simmons was doing when he reached out to Johnson. With many former players occupying prominent roles with teams, that line has become more and more blurry, and tampering concerns have inched their way into more of those conversations.“It’s almost odd that this one was a public situation,” said Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, who coaches a number of burgeoning young stars who would look through similar channels for advice. “It does get difficult when you have a player who works for an NBA team and is someone as well respected as Magic.”Silver said he believes the league has the power to investigate claims of tampering and enforce the rules as need be. He also believes the issue of trade demands and tampering are separate, but teams might feel differently: In their statement acknowledging Davis’ trade demand last month, the Pelicans asked that the league “enforce the tampering rules.” Davis’ link to the Lakers through his agent Rich Paul, who is also LeBron James’ agent, is a commonly speculated source of intrigue.Silver is most sore about the situation leaking out from behind closed doors. When the league negotiated the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, it gave teams the power to offer a contract extension a year before one of its drafted players becomes a free agent. The idea was to give teams a chance to learn before the competition whether a player would be willing to re-sign or not, then make a deal as needed – all in private.The actual consequences of that provision have played out differently. Davis simply accelerated his timeline.“Once again, the law of unintended consequences: It hasn’t worked out exactly as we had planned,” Silver said. “That’s another area we have to focus on.”It’s unclear if Davis truly understands the gravitas of his decision. He was booed in his return to Smoothie King Center, and the Pelicans, fearful of injuring their chief trade asset, have been skittish about playing him for whole games. Still, Davis insisted he would have “a heartwarming message” for fans that he would post on Instagram “when the time comes.”Paul George went through a similar situation in 2017 when he told the Indiana Pacers he would like to be traded. He was dealt to Oklahoma City that summer, turning fans against him not only in Indiana, where he was the biggest star since Reggie Miller, but also in Los Angeles, which he spurned last summer in free agency.George said he feels for Davis’ situation, knowing he will have “a city and a fanbase turn on him,” while still trying to win.“It’s definitely going to make him tougher,” he said. “It’s going to give him a thicker skin.”Players generally seem supportive of Davis. He said he and his teammates rarely talk about the absurd nature of their predicament in the locker room. They focus on the things teams do: the coming opponent, and how to play better.Related Articles
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