Does anyone have the guts to do what’s right?
This isn’t about logic, common sense or common ground. Everyone knows the correct answer, but no one is willing to take the necessary action to fix the problem.
Anthony Davis is going to start for the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night against the Indiana Pacers, according to coach Alvin Gentry.
Don’t let the mundanity and predictability of that sentence fool you. It’s still an absurd occurrence.
And just about everyone knows it. When Gentry was asked if this is strangest thing he’s experienced in his prolonged career, the 64-year-old didn’t hesitate.
“In my life,” Gentry said through a smile, just minutes after he met with Davis in a closed-door meeting following Thursday’s practice. “It is what it is.”
Because every passing minute Davis plays for the Pelicans, everyone involved looks worse. It’s a situation made even more maddening when everyone on the outside realizes how remarkably simple the solution is.
Bench Anthony Davis. Or send him home.
End the charade. Allow everyone to move forward.
It’s straightforward enough to make a sane person scream. Yet, Davis, the Pelicans and the NBA are at an impasse.
“The league rules made it clear Anthony has to play,” interim general manager Danny Ferry said Thursday night. “As we’ve done previously, we will continue to follow their lead, but we will also be focused on the future of the team. Therefore, you’ll see a reduction in Anthony’s minutes.”
Increasing the focus on development and tapering down Davis’ role is a logical first step, but it’s not far enough.
While Davis claims he wants to play because he loves basketball, it’s time for the league to take the decision out of his hands. Yes, it’s understandable a mostly-healthy 25-year-old superstar desires to be on the court, but the circus he’s created by making this trade demand public overwhelms any presence he assumes on the floor.
Not only did Davis openly demand a trade with more than a season remaining on his contract, he used the All-Star podium to discuss places he might go next. Although Davis’ on-court intentions may ultimately be harmless, the league’s refusal to separate him from the Pelicans for the next two months makes Davis appear selfish, oblivious and petulant, even if he isn’t.
The NBA doesn’t come off much better, with multiple sources insisting the league is forcing the Pelicans to play Davis, and making sure Davis plays for the Pelicans, despite the obvious benefits a quick divorce would net.
Commissioner Adam Silver tried to clarify the NBA’s position during his press conference last weekend, but his roundabout answer only confirmed how sticky the situation is.
“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,” Silver said. “These become very context-specific issues for the league office and not subject to computer programs that spit out answers.”
Why is this so complicated? It only requires common sense and about 60 seconds inside the Smoothie King Center to know Davis shouldn’t be playing with the Pelicans anymore.
Coaches don’t want it. Most teammates don’t want it. The wide majority of fans vocally don’t want it.
Ending all of this angst doesn’t need an opinion poll though. It just requires some guts.
Silver is well established as a player-friendly commissioner and by allowing the franchise to sit Davis, it’s exposing the league to a potentially ugly litigation fight with the NBA Players Association, which can file a grievance on Davis’ behalf. No one in New York wants that, because it threatens Silver’s reputation and inserts a wedge between the league and the players during a period of strong fiscal growth and relative harmony.
Not to mention the NBA doesn’t want to set a precedent about excommunicating superstars on struggling teams.
So, to be clear, this has nothing to do with protecting the Pelicans or serving in their best interest. Instead, they must play along with this charade.
Therefore, it’s time for the franchise to act. And if that requires disobeying the league and potentially rankling Silver in the process, then so be it.
No one in New Orleans is benefitting from the status quo, and the franchise needs to look out for itself. While downplaying Davis’ role into the 20-minute range would help develop young players, it’s still keeps his specter lingering over the entire franchise until the summer.
The Pelicans gain no upside from playing Davis another minute, risking injury to their greatest asset and gobbling up precious time for young guys like Jahlil Okafor and Cheick Diallo while being essentially eliminated from the playoffs.
“We are going to be more purposeful with a going-forward focus,” Ferry said. “That means guys like Frank (Jackson), Cheick (Diallo) and Kenrich (Williams) should play good minutes.”
But it doesn’t eliminate the problem.
As long as Davis is in uniform, Gentry’s press conferences will keep sounding like hostage negotiations, since the head coach is rendered unable to answer for his own team’s rotations. And it will disgust fans, who deserve an unfiltered, logical response about why their franchise isn’t allowed to act in its own best interest, while everyone else is.
It’s why the NBA needs to make the right decision and end this now, no matter the precedent it might set.