It seems like just yesterday that Anthony Davis had his image wiped from nearly every part of Pelicans-related media in anticipation for the team to honor his trade request. But both sides had to put that bit of their history behind them on Friday when the All-Star big man suited up to play against the Timberwolves for Davis’s first home game since he made his desire to leave New Orleans known.
Yes, despite the fact that the Pelicans gutted a lot of their talent at the trade deadline, and Davis had been sitting for nine straight games due to injury and not-wanting-to-be-a-Pelican-itis, New Orleans’ best player was, in fact, going to play that night and will be playing throughout the season. You can thank the league, and Rich Paul, for that. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the NBA decided to threaten enforcement of its rest rule—which prevents teams from sitting healthy players purely for recovery—that would result in a $100,000 fine for every game that Davis sat. But the league wouldn’t have done anything in the first place had Paul not alerted the NBA’s front office over concerns that his client would not get playing time after his trade request was temporarily ignored. Not a bad consolation for someone whose masterminded trade was thwarted just days earlier.
So the Pelicans were forced to trot Davis onto the floor, and the fans thanked the team for not being so obvious with its tanking efforts with a shower of boos during Davis’s first touch of the ball.
Davis finished the night with 32 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes—he sat out for the fourth quarter—during the Pelicans’ 122-117 win over the Timberwolves. He told reporters after the game that the booing was “awkward” but added that he wasn’t affected by it because all he wants to do now is get out and play.
Tanking efforts that involve purposefully leaving a team’s best players on the bench suck and they make games unwatchable. It’s good that Davis is willing to break this annoying precedent and actually gets to do what he wants in this scenario—which is play basketball. Sure, Davis’s desire to play might cause Pelicans’ management some concern, but they had their chance to move Davis earlier, and they chose to use that time to be incredibly petty instead. They also can’t act surprised that the league is against one of its top talents not playing for the remainder of the year. The only thing that front office can do now is wait for the season to end, and hope that Davis doesn’t end up injuring himself after slipping on the floor of his home—as Kentucky players are wont to do.