CHARLOTTE — This is the gathering of the NBA universe.
It’s why each year, NBA commissioner Adam Silver uses All-Star Weekend to make announcements on the league’s new ventures and address its most public problems.
On Saturday afternoon, Silver stood at a podium and unveiled the association’s bold plan to partner with FIBA to launch a professional basketball league in Africa.
And a few hours later, there Silver was discussing the state of the New Orleans Pelicans. Well, sort of.
Due to the ongoing Anthony Davis saga and the countless league-wide concerns stemming out of it, Silver spent a portion of his annual All-Star address focused on the plight of small markets and superstars. The backdrop being what it ultimately means for the NBA as a whole when a player of Anthony Davis’ caliber demands his way out of a franchise with more than 18 months left on his contract.
“One way of looking at it is 18 months, to me, isn’t exactly how I see it because everyone recognizes in the case of the Pelicans that the pivotal time was this summer,” Silver said. “He was either going to make a commitment to the organization (by signing a supermax contract extension) or they were going to likely trade him.
“I think the difference is, you don’t want to see that play out publicly. And here there was a trade demand. It creates, understandably, a very awkward position between the team and the player and what the role is of the league in terms of injecting itself in the middle of a team’s decision on playing that player. These become very context-specific issues for the league office and not subject to computer programs that spit out answers."
To recap, Davis publicly requested a trade in January, setting off a firestorm of speculation about where the Pelicans would send him, while Davis’ representation openly angled him toward the Los Angeles Lakers per an prolonged line of leaks and reports.
“I’m not so sure it’s a small market, big market problem,” Silver said. “I’m not so sure what the line is anymore on big markets. If you look at the success of the so-called big markets in the last five years, they’re at an all-time low.”
But, despite that fact, LeBron James signed with the Lakers in free agency. And, per a myriad of reports, Davis’ most favored options for a trade are with the Lakers and Knicks, places where he initially said he’d sign a contract extension in 2020.
When the Pelicans opted not to ship off Davis at the trade deadline two weeks ago, the superstar desired to return to the court, despite several powerful people inside the organization protesting it. However, the NBA, reportedly concerned by potential litigation from the NBAPA, pressured the Pelicans to allow Davis back onto the floor.
According to league sources, it was a decision met with angst inside the locker room and coaches offices while causing anger to rise amongst the Pelicans’ already-soured fan base.
While Silver never directly addressed the league office’s role in the matter, except noting it was a unique position and he is against in-season trade demands, he did highlight the NBA fining Davis the maximum $50,000 penalty for his agent’s public request.
After Davis addressed the topic often on Saturday afternoon, it was Silver’s turn to respond on Saturday night, speaking to a horde of reporters prior to the All-Star Saturday Night festivities in the Spectrum Center.
While he still didn’t provide firm solutions, he at least addressed the problems.
“I think we can do a better job as a league, though, in avoiding those situations where they get to the point where players are either demanding they be traded,” Silver said. “Or, in the worst case scenarios, getting to the point where they say they won’t honor their contract.”