The New Orleans Pelicans’ decision to not deal Anthony Davis before last Thursday’s trade deadline left open several questions.
Most pressing was what would the Pelicans do with their lame-duck superstar center for the rest of the season?
Pelicans taking chance of hurting Davis’ value
To the surprise of many, the Pelicans answered that question by playing Davis — whose absence with a finger injury lingered as trade rumors swirled — in the first game after the deadline.
Many expected the Pelicans to do everything in their power to protect Davis’ health and maintain his value for the anticipated offseason trade-market bonanza. With the team also shifting gears to rebuilding mode, there is little incentive to play Davis beyond fan draw.
NBA denies threatening Pelicans with fine
On Friday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst appeared to shed some light on New Orleans’ motivation. He reported that the league had told the Pelicans they would be fined $100,000 for every game Davis sat while healthy — a tally that would add up to $2.7 million with 27 games remaining.
On Monday, the league denied that threat in statement to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
“The NBA did not tell New Orleans that it would be fined $100,000 per game if Anthony Davis were held out for the remainder of the season,” league spokesman Mike Bass told Stein.
‘Integrity of the game’ at play
When the Pelicans announced their decision to play Davis shortly after Thursday’s deadline, they pointed to the desire to win games and maintain the “integrity of the game” as their reasoning.
“A number of factors contributed to this decision,” Pelicans manager Dell Demps wrote in a statement. “Ultimately, Anthony made it clear to us that he wants to play and he gives our team the best opportunity to win games. Moreover, the Pelicans want to preserve the integrity of the game and align our organization with NBA policies.”
Bass touched on the “integrity” aspect with Stein, and it appears that message came down loud and clear from the league office.
More from the NBA’s Mike Bass on New Orleans and Anthony Davis: ”The Pelicans were advised that the team had not identified a proper basis for making that determination at this time and league rules governing competitive integrity therefore require that he be permitted to play.”
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 11, 2019
But if the NBA is to be believed, the threat of a $100,000 fine is something that was never directly brought up in discussions — even if it may have been implied.
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