Note to Small Market GM’s: Blame Yourself and Dry Your Tears

According to small market GM’s, complimenting Anthony Davis is a crime.

LeBron James was asked a question about a potential Anthony Davis pairing and he answered it. If someone asked LeBron about Kevin Durant, he would have said the same thing in the same exact way. His job is to answer media questions.

Other NBA players have openly debated superstars coming to their teams via Instagram. Small market GM’s were notoriously silent, even when it was their own players doing the speculating and pleading.

Anthony Davis would be amazing, and Kawhi Leonard would be amazing, and Kevin Durant would be amazing, and Klay Thompson would be amazing. LeBron wasn’t exactly preaching to the choir here.

But what really has small market GM’s feeling some kind of way about Anthony Davis is their own paralysis. Davis himself is leaving all of these tiny crumbs in a trail, a message while saying exactly nothing about his future and quietly saying everything. If Davis wants out, he will get out. He may have to endure his last year while the Pelicans gamble, but he will be gone and nothing the Pelicans can do will change that. That’s what hurts.

What the problem is, simply, when you dot the i’s and cross the t’s: who has the power in the NBA?

The elite players, of course. It’s a paradox for GM’s whose job it is to keep elite players in house for a long, long time. The collective bargaining agreement is set up to make that happen. The Supermax contract is supposed to entice players to stay put, reasoning to their greed.

NBA owners are of the collective mindset that NBA players care about money more than they care about anything else. Except Kevin Durant denied himself the supermax by moving to Oakland. And Kawhi Leonard denied himself the supermax by demanding a trade. And Kyrie Irving denied himself the supermax by demanding a trade. And perhaps, Anthony Davis is the latest who isn’t motivated by greed. It’s a scary prospect for GM’s because what then? If money doesn’t entice a player to stay, then what does?

Winning, perhaps?

But Kevin Durant left a team that was in the Western Conference Finals, up 3-1. So it’s not winning either. Some players just want to go. If Anthony Davis wants to be in L.A. there is nothing the Pelicans can do except deny him an early start as LeBron’s teammate. LeBron wanted to be in L.A. That’s where he is. Players with elite talent have power. They decide things. It makes a GM’s job perilous.

But lets look at what Dell Demps has done to keep Davis in New Orleans. While he can’t control if Davis loves L.A. or wants to play with LeBron, he can control his own behavior.

Davis was drafted in 2012.

The Pelicans first round draft picks since then have been Nerlens Noel, a lottery pick. Four NBA teams in 6 years.  7 points, 8 rebounds in the Noel career.  Buddy Heild was another lottery pick. He was traded to Sacramento and is killing it this year, 47% and 43% from three, 113 Offensive Rating, someone Anthony Davis really could use.

Dell Demps, the Pels GM, gave Jrue Holiday a $126 million dollar contract. Holiday is a nice combo guard but paying him like he is a #1 when he can’t give you #1 production hurts flexibility and limits the ability to get another All-NBA player next to Davis. Holiday defends and can hit a shot but doesn’t have elite game.

Demps gave Solomon Hill a $48 million dollar contract. In the grand scheme of NBA money, $12 million a year isn’t a lot but Hill isn’t worth that much. He’s a role player who is averaging 4 points, 3 rebounds and shooting 39%.

Demps made the gamble for Boogie Cousins, a trade the Pels lost. Not only did Boogie tear his Achilles in one of his best seasons, the chemistry with him and Davis was touch and go and they gave up a valuable lottery pick scorer (Buddy Hield) as bait.

Since Anthony Davis was drafted, the Pelicans have won 27 games, 34 games, 45 games, 30 games, 34 games, and 48 games. That’s not LeBron James fault. That is the roster Dell Demps is responsible for.

The small market GM’s need a reality check. The kind where you take accountability for what you have built.

What the small market GM’s have right is that all of the Anthony Davis to LA (or Anthony Davis to Boston) chatter has created a negative perception. Look at how attendance has dropped in NOLA.

Last year, the Pelicans averaged 16,000+ fans, 97% capacity, ranking them 16th. This season, attendance has dropped off a thousand per game. Their 89.4% capacity ranks them 21st.

If you list the elite players beginning with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and add Anthony Davis to the list, Davis’ team has the lowest attendance. Every single one of those elite players have been to a NBA Final. Davis has not.

This has nothing to do with LeBron James. Nothing. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar left small town Milwaukee because he wanted to be in Los Angeles. There wasn’t a LeBron James sighting 40 years ago and it surely wasn’t tampering.

An Eastern Conference GM actual said with a straight face “This becomes a campaign meant to destabilize another organization, install chaos and unrest that make it harder to keep an environment that the player would want to stay in.”

Really?

Let me explain to anonymous GM. An environment a player wants to stay in is one in which he is valued and he wins. Second, a campaign alludes to multiple incidents of negotiation, not answering a question and tossing out the adjective “amazing.” Third, organizations are destabilized by the front office and their inability to build a team that a player wants to stay long term with. GM’s destabilize the organization with their choices. GM’s are management. The players are labor.

LeBron James is always the answer for whenever someone is offended. But the hypocrisy is supreme. First, no stars want to play with LeBron. Now, LeBron is ruining the Pelicans. Give me a break.

The Pelicans, if they are indeed ruined, have done this to themselves.