Anthony Davis got exactly what he wanted during this NBA offseason: the New Orleans Pelicans finally traded him, and he landed on the suddenly-contending Los Angeles Lakers. But Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr isn’t happy about it. The increased competition doesn’t bother him, but Davis’ trade demand does.
In an interview with the Warriors Insider Podcast, Kerr went into detail about the Davis situation in New Orleans, and he didn’t hold back.
“I'm talking more about the Anthony Davis situation. 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.”
Davis, through his agent, publicly requested a trade from the Pelicans in January 2019, and told the Pels that he wouldn’t sign a contract extension. The NBA fined him for making his trade request publicly, but you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. The information was out there. Davis had signed a five-year deal in 2015 and wouldn’t be a free agent until 2020, but he wanted out of New Orleans.
Kerr obviously isn’t a fan of this kind of maneuvering. He said Davis was holding the Pelicans hostage, with Davis being visibly unhappy and essentially forcing the team to do what he wanted. Kerr thinks a contract is a contract, and held up LeBron James and Kevin Durant as examples of players who played out the string in less-than-ideal situations rather than agitate for change.
"There's a way to move and a way to not move. What LeBron did, played out his contract. What Kevin did both when he arrived at Golden State and when he left. You sign contracts, you play them out and you move on. That's how it should be done.
"But it's a little disturbing that there has been some action that happens before contracts are up, where teams are sort of held hostage and the league is sort of held hostage. I'm not a big fan of that. That's damaging for everybody."
The NBA agrees with Kerr, since they fine players for publicly requesting trades. But it’s easy to see both sides here. Players aren’t forced to sign contracts — Davis wasn’t forced to sign one with the Pelicans in 2015 — and they made a choice to play for a team for a certain amount of time, regardless of whether the situation changes. But for a player like Davis to feel like his prime years are being wasted on a team that’s going nowhere is tough. A player only has so many years in him.
What Davis did isn’t ideal for the League. He essentially forced the Pelicans’ hand. But even with the bad look and the $50,000 fine, he told ESPN after the trade that he wouldn’t have done anything differently.
“I knew I wasn't gonna sign an extension and that my time in New Orleans was definitely coming to an end. And, you know, I see a lotta people that say, "Wait --" or "You shoulda did it this way, that way." But for me, I've been in the league long enough. I'm a grown man. I know what I want. And so I thought doing it at that time was definitely going to be beneficial for myself and for the organization to get the best package available, so that way the organization is still set.”
Davis made a good point. With the trade, the Pelicans got quite the package of players. Without the trade, the Pelicans would have gotten nothing. Kerr thinks it set a bad precedent, but it ended up as a win-win-win for Davis, the Lakers, and the Pelicans.
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