It looks increasingly like the Pelicans have no real intention of dealing with the Lakers ahead of tomorrow’s trade deadline. The Lakers have made their whole damn team available in offers for Anthony Davis, and the Pelicans apparently haven’t made any concrete counteroffers, and the only observable effect of all this chatter and speculation has been the Lakers’ morale going completely to shit, and the team suffering one of the worst losses in franchise history.
It turns out that might’ve been by design! You will recall, there was quite the scandal surrounding tampering-adjacent comments made by LeBron James back in December. Then, in January, the Pelicans called down the thunder on their own player, for making his trade request public, via his agent. The Pelicans have not appreciated what they’ve seen as an effort, led by LeBron, Magic, and agent Rich Paul, to engineer Davis’s move from New Orleans to Los Angeles. ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst, appearing Wednesday on The Jump, told Rachel Nichols that the Pelicans, soaked in bitterness after the Lakers’ tampering campaign, have used these trade negotiations as a way of getting sweet, sweet revenge:
The idea, here, is that the Pelicans, by drawing out negotiations, and strategically leaking details to NBA scoopsters, and routing more and more of the communication between the teams through all-too-willing media proxies, have deliberately destabilized the Lakers, by distracting and humiliating their players and ruining the team’s internal chemistry. Nichols asked Windhorst straight up if that ulterior motive could be behind the way New Orleans has communicated throughout trade negotiations, and Windhorst was pretty clear in his response:
“It’s not just possible, it’s what happened. I know that the Pelicans, you know—the Pelicans had a method to their madness, in the way this went. Did they know it was gonna lead to a 40-point loss, because everybody’s upset? Not necessarily.”
Windhorst describes the “information war” going on behind the scenes across the NBA—and presumably centered on Anthony Davis—as like nothing he’s ever seen in his 16 years covering the NBA. If it’s true that the Pelicans have been stringing the Lakers along and outsourcing bad-faith trade communications to the same reporters who facilitated what the Pelicans all along saw as tampering, and did all this to nuke the Lakers’ internal chemistry and torpedo the second half of their season, holy shit! They invented a new kind of tampering, and deployed it like a goddamn smart-bomb! The Pelicans may be horrendous at building a contender around a generational talent, but for sheer dark-hearted vindictiveness, they are in a class all their own.