NBA teams have been known to lure players with perks other teams don't give, but for our purposes, where do the New Orleans Pelicans sit on this issue?
There are all kinds of fringe benefits good teams can offer over unsuccessful franchises — that’s a given, but what about all those who struggle to say afloat? If you can’t offer wins, a lot of national exposure, and chances for more endorsements, players may require appeasement in other ways. Ever read any stories about certain players that were allowed input into organizational moves, handled with more precautions or granted additional allowances?
This is important to keep in the back of your minds as the season progresses because we may soon learn what it’ll take to sign Demarcus Cousins.
Let’s talk about the trade of Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for a moment. One has to wonder what was truly behind that deal. Kyrie stated he wanted to be the main guy on a team, but words have been written stating that there were other motivations as well. Who wouldn't want to go to the NBA finals, year after year, and play alongside one of the best players the league has ever seen? Yeah, there had to be more going on behind the scenes, and one idea is that there was special treatment given to LeBron James that Irving didn't like or receive similarly.
Take James' history with the Heat. While in Miami, it was reported that he went to Pat Riley, the team’s general manager, and insisted James Jones get more playing time — effectively bypassing head coach Erik Spoelstra. Later, as Jones started to receive minutes and knock down multiple shots, LeBron James openly mocked Spoelstra for not playing Jones more previously. When other demands to GM Pat Riley went unheeded, it is assumed this at least partially paved the way for King James eventual departure.
Consider this: The better teams in the league have more depth on the roster. Reliable depth gives a coach the ability to rest a star player as opposed to those who need a superstar for maximum minutes, night after night. Over time, that becomes grueling on an athlete's body, both physically and mentally. Maybe the team in question starts to feel the pressure to do something extra for their star, say excuse him from certain drills in practice or give way to other allowances. This shouldn’t be difficult to picture considering special requests were made on one of the winningest teams last season.
But there were ancillary issues that bothered Irving, too, such as how James' good friend Randy Mims had a position on the Cavs' staff and traveled on the team plane while none of Irving's close friends were afforded the same opportunity.
Should the Pelicans engage in similar tactics if asked or more disappointment next season calls for radical action? Playing with Anthony Davis can satisfy for only so long. Even more wins than losses maybe won’t do the trick every time. Obviously it depends on the individual, but at some point, everyone likes having their back scratched — whether they ask for that massage or not.
Let's face it, we've all read the rumors that the Boston Celtics are not done building a championship caliber roster. There have been countless of words dedicated to the idea that Danny Ainge will be able to pry Davis out of New Orleans. Most knowledgable fans know Davis isn’t leaving town anytime soon, but I’m sure it has crossed the mind of Dell Demps that if the Pels continue to suffer setbacks, Davis will get more and more frustrated. If Davis is unhappy, where’s the incentive for Cousins to re-sign?
One of the worst case scenarios: if AD’s good friend Boogie leaves over the summer, or gasp, gets traded before the deadline to another organization. While I don’t envision this second notion coming to fruition, regardless of the circumstances, the Pelicans could be forced to start walking a very fine line in a months time as the opening schedule is far from friendly.
This season is loaded with potential for a remarkable turnaround by the New Orleans Pelicans, but expect one of the challenges for Demps to be how he handles his two stars. If the team performs anywhere close to the level witnessed over the last few seasons, will a mandate be issued to lighten up or tighten up on key figures?
For as long as it can be helped, Davis and Cousins are the future of the Pelicans franchise. Thankfully these two are close friends both on and off the court — so a Kyrie/LeBron type of clash resulting from jealousy and hurt feelings are not likely. However, how Demps and the organization handle these two players off the court may be just as important as the X's and O's decided on the court.