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The New Orleans Pelicans didn't trade Anthony Davis. Despite his public trade request, New Orleans decided to keep the All-NBA big man, and he played in his first game since that request Friday night against the Timberwolves. It was about as awkward of a game you'll ever see, as the seats were barren, and the fans that were there booed early in the game when Davis touched the ball. The Pelicans won 122-117, and those boos turned into cheers but with Anthony Davis not playing in the fourth, is this how it's going to be like for the rest of the season? Things are awkward and it won't get any better.
Anthony Davis made a trade request and the Pelicans basically rejected it. New Orleans didn't see a deal sweet enough that would prompt them to ship him out. They know what kind of generational talent they have in Davis and no deal the Lakers (because let's be honest, that's the only team that really went after Davis) made was equivalent for what the Pelicans would give the Lakers in Davis. The Pelicans are in a tough spot and they don't have any good avenues to try to utilize.
Now that Davis is here for the remainder of the season, the Pelicans have no choice but to play him, unless they want to pay a fine every game they hold him out. The league office let the team know that they'd be fined $100k+ a game Anthony is benched. Davis' agent Rich Paul expressed his "concern" to the NBA that the Pelicans might not want to play him if he wasn't traded before the February 7 deadline. If The Brow was to be benched for the rest of the season, that adds up to at least $2.6 million in fines. In playing Davis, the boo birds will be out, maybe not in huge numbers, but enough to make their presence felt. The stadium felt uncomfortable for everyone and it was obvious.
Benched in the Fourth?
Davis was having another dominant game, scoring 32 points in the game, 24 of those in the first half. But Davis was put on the bench with 3:14 left in the third quarter and didn't play in the final quarter. The game wasn't a blowout either, as the Timberwolves were giving them a tough fight, with Karl Anthony-Towns having 32 points of his own. We don't know why Davis didn't play in the fourth, and we don't know if this is how it'll be for the rest of the season. But if you're the Pelicans, what message are you sending to the other players if your best player isn't playing in crunch time?
The Pelicans deciding to sit the Brow in the fourth might give the indication to other players that this is a done season. Sitting at 13th in the Western Conference, many would agree with that. The season might be done in New Orleans, but should the Pelicans be this open about it? Are the other players on the team okay with this approach? I would think not, as I'm sure players like Jrue Holiday aren't fans of wasting seasons (that's just my opinion).
There are more questions than answers in this Anthony Davis situation. Is he going to play back-to-back games? Will his finger injury affect how he is handled? With Davis wanting out, what's the future for the Pelicans as a basketball team? All these kinds of speculations only add more tension and awkwardness as we now enter the "break up, but I still live with you" phase of the Davis and Pelicans relationship.
Davis wants to play, and the Pelicans intend on playing him, but at their discretion. It's not like they have a choice, but now it's up to the Pelicans on how much they play him, and when. If they are committed to winning, he play in crunch time and his usual minutes. (He is averaging 37 minutes and only played 25 on Friday.) Davis wants to play in as many games as he can because he feels like it gives his team the best chance to win. He said in his post-game interview that his teammates want him to play, as they probably want to win as well. But are Davis, the Pelicans, and the other player on the same page? Doesn't seem like it, but we have a small sample size to look at.
With 26 games left, it will be an interesting end of the season for the Pelicans and hypothetically speaking, this could go on for another season if things got to that point. Davis is focused on basketball and that's probably what we all should be focused on as well.