It would be karmic justice for Anthony Davis to wind up on the Lakers, and at the same time, it would be a divine punishment for the New Orleans Pelicans whose tanking to get Davis was a back door deal sanctioned by the NBA, who rigged the process for money. Davis, on the Lakers, and Davis anywhere, would devastate the Pelicans. There is no equal move they can make where a generational talent like Davis is traded and the team receives something of value to soothe their wounded feelings. The Pelicans will have to start all over and it would bring the saga which started in 2011, when Davis was a freshman at the University of Kentucky, to a dramatic you reap what you sow end.
In 2011, the New Orleans Hornets had an unhappy star, Chris Paul. In 2011, the NBA and its players had just been through a bruising lockout.
Once the lockout ended, Chris Paul let the Hornets know he wanted out. The Hornets began working on a deal and came up with a monster. Paul would go to the Lakers. Pau Gasol would go to the Rockets. Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola would go to the Hornets. It was a deal that made everyone happy. The Lakers would have their first true point guard since Magic Johnson and a player to survive the franchise after the Kobe Bryant years. The Rockets had long coveted big man Gasol. And the Hornets would get decent players who could put the ball in the hole and compete. Quality veterans.
At the time that the deal was consummated, the New Orleans Hornets were also up for sale. They were owned by the NBA after George Shinn could no longer run the team. He didn’t have the money.
The Hornets started in Charlotte and everything was going great in the 90’s. The Hornets routinely sold out the arena. They had Alonzo Mourning and Baron Davis and Dell Curry. They had excitement and pizzaz with only one blemish, the trading of Kobe Bryant on draft day. That is until their owner, Carolina native George Shinn, was accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting Leslie Price, a woman he said he was having a consensual relationship with.
Although acquitted, in a southern state like North Carolina, it didn’t go over well, the supposed Christian moralist Shinn having a messy personal life. Add insult to injury, Shinn had basketball problems. He was cheap. He wouldn’t pay Alonzo Mourning what he was worth. He continued to threaten to move the team. North Carolina hated him.
Shinn eventually moved the team to New Orleans. In New Orleans, he drafted Chris Paul, David West and made a deal for Tyson Chandler. When Shinn tried to sell the team because he had money issues during the recession, no one wanted to buy, not in New Orleans. So, the NBA bought the team from Shinn to keep the team funded. The Hornets were the first team ever owned by the league.
In December of 2011 when Chris Paul made his trade demand and Hornets Dell Demps crafted a trade with the Lakers (Mitch Kupchak) and the Rockets (Daryl Morey), Demps was thinking basketball. But David Stern was thinking money.
If the Hornets received Lamar Odom, a slasher and scorer, Kevin Martin, a scorer, and Luis Scola, a rebounder and mid-range shot maker, they would compete and win a few games, and find themselves at the bottom of the lottery. Just as important, Odom, Martin, and Scola had contracts on the books that would make a prospective owner hesitate. Too much debt. The important thing for the sale was to make money for the league. David Stern vetoed the Chris Paul trade.
The backup trade was Chris Paul to the Clippers, and Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman to the Hornets. Gordon was on his rookie contract and Kaman’s contract wasn’t prohibitive. The Hornets without Paul, and with Gordon and Kaman, were fast tracked for the top of the lottery, what Stern wanted all along. And then low and behold, the team the NBA owned and was trying to sell, gets the number one pick, Anthony Davis.
Despite the back deal maneuvering, and the NBA manipulating the process, all the Hornets had to do was to build around Anthony Davis. But it is a hard thing to do, fill in the pieces with All-NBA players. Most players don’t want to move. They stay put.
And so here we are with a supposedly unhappy Anthony Davis exerting his leverage as Chris Paul asserted his leverage once upon a time. But now, the NBA has no say. The Pelicans will trade Anthony Davis. If not at the trade deadline in order to fast track a Zion Williamson dream, then this summer. He may never get to the Lakers.
But if he does, it will be justice eight years later.