The Lakers faced the Pelicans for what felt like the 17th time this season on Wednesday, this one on ESPN with multiple Van Gundii involved. Watching this insidious ballet is slowly driving me mad. Can we please go over how absurd this all has become?
Anthony Davis played. Sort of. The best player New Orleans has ever had, Davis played 20 minutes. The Pelicans were +4 in those 20 minutes and -10 in the other 28. Davis did not play in the close fourth quarter.
This is because the Pelicans do not want to win games. They do not want to win games because the playoff race is shot because Davis was legitimately injured for a spell and because the team is altogether not really good enough to finish above .500. For these reasons and potentially others, Davis told the Pelicans he didn’t want to sign an extension this summer and in fact would like to be traded. He did this in such a way as to indicate his preference is to be traded to the Lakers.
The Pelicans reportedly sabotaged the Lakers’ season by leading them on in trade negotiations before the in-season trade deadline with no intention of actually making a move. They reportedly did this out of anger with the Lakers, Davis, and LeBron James, whose good friend Rich Paul is the agent for both LeBron and Davis.
The Pelicans reportedly wanted to bench Davis for the rest of the season, and Davis reportedly pushed back, and the NBA reportedly stepped in to prevent a three-month DNP-We Mad situation. The apparent compromise is that Davis plays minimal minutes as the Pelicans focus on Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle, and a bevy of lesser players. There is no dispute that the Pelicans are worse with Davis on the bench (even if N.O. fans claim the team works harder and is more enjoyable when A.D. is out — data is data) and there is no dispute that being worse for the rest of the season materially helps the Pelicans improve their draft position.
Meanwhile, the Lakers — a team in desparate desire for Davis’ presence to the point they sabotaged their team mid-season in the chase for Davis, and a team the Pelicans institution absolutely loathes right now — really, really want to win and make the playoffs, and need every ounce of output and edge to get the victory most nights, and still often fall short. The Pelicans’ desire to lose and the related desire to bench Davis was stronger than the Pelicans’ urge punish the Lakers by beating them on Wednesday, to LeBron and the Lakers’ great embarrassment, which the Pelicans absolutely could have done if they would have just played Davis 32 or 36 minutes or whatever, including crunch time.
So instead, LeBron nailed a heroic dagger three over Holiday’s fingertips, preened in the Pelicans’ faces, got a half-game closer to the playoffs, and added to his voluminous legend. The expert ESPN cameras caught Davis’ reaction on the Pelicans’ bench, and it’s worth more than the thousand words I’ve spilled on all of this.
What a mess. What a beautiful, hilarious, absurd mess.
Rockets 118, Hornets 113
Timberwolves 123, Hawks 131 (OT)
Wizards 125, Nets 116
Warriors 125, Heat 126
Blazers 97, Celtics 92
Bulls 109, Grizzlies 107
Pistons 93, Spurs 105
Pacers 101, Mavericks 110
Clippers 105, Jazz 111
Bucks 141, Kings 140 (OT)
Pelicans 119, Lakers 125
All times Eastern. Games on League Pass unless otherwise noted.
Timberwolves at Pacers, 7
Warriors at Magic, 7
Cavaliers at Knicks, 7:30
Heat at Rockets, 8
Sixers at Thunder, 8, TNT
Jazz at Nuggets, 10:30, TNT
I wrote about what people get all wrong about the new era of player power.
Marc Stein on Lukamania. Speaking of the Mavericks, I could not be more pleased that Dirk Nowitzki is now talking about playing another year despite the random farewell tour he didn’t ask for popping up around him!
Mitchell Robinson, who had a pretty odd path to the NBA, is winning over Knicks fans one night at a time.
Please do not talk to me about Malcolm Brogdon for any reason for the forseeable future.
The Celtics lost again. You hate to see it.
Be excellent to each other.