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Rich Paul deserves vast criticism for mishandling the Anthony Davis trade request

He still blames Dell Demps, but there’s no mistaking that the direct involvement of Klutch Sports ruined the seasons of two franchises.

Klutch 2019 All Star Weekend Dinner Photo by Dominique Oliveto/Getty Images for Klutch Sports Group 2019 All Star Weekend

Remember when everyone decided to point the finger at Dell Demps for the failed Anthony Davis trade to the Los Angeles Lakers after the trade deadline?

While there will always be some who still hold the Pelicans former general manager accountable for nearly everything, we now have a smoking gun. Straight from the horse’s mouth, Rich Paul has admitted to Sports Illustrated that he was responsible for going public with the trade request.

Paul admits the situation got out of hand. (“Would I have wanted things to be handled a bit better? Absolutely.”) But he goes on to dump all blame on then Pels GM, Dell Demps. Because Paul insists his plan wasn’t to go public. He says that he first informed Demps on Jan. 25 of Davis’s intentions, and Demps responded that he’d confer with Benson and get back to him. (Demps did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) Instead, Paul says, Demps called Davis himself—and never got back to Paul. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had contacted him, Paul says, to confirm Davis’s demands.

“It was necessary to go public,” Paul says. “When I told you, ‘Here’s our intentions,’ and you say, ‘Hey, let me talk to ownership,’ and instead of you talking to ownership you call Anthony Davis? That’s called being ignored.” And trying to get between a player and his agent? “That’s a no-no,” Paul says. “Every GM knows that.”

So, in essence, Demps violated negotiation etiquette and Paul responded with the nuclear option. You can argue whether that served his client, but the episode may be the most telling measure of player power today. Because when you look at who actually suffered as a result of the trade demand—beyond a fleeting reputational dent—Davis and Paul and James barely make the list.

An NBA agent found it necessary to go public with his client’s wish and ruin the seasons of two franchises simply because he felt ignored.

This is pure amateur hour stuff!!!

Anthony Davis was, and still remains, a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. A general manager does have the right to talk to a player on his roster. Moreover, can we be sure there are no other pertinent details that Paul failed to mention?

  • How did Paul approach Dell with the trade request — Was it made in good faith or was some ultimatum issued?
  • Was the relationship perhaps already a sour one with the Pelicans front office and therefore Dell smartly assumed that any further communication with Paul would have been a large waste of time?
  • Lastly, didn’t the Pelicans front office already know that this day was fast approaching as soon as Davis signed on the dotted line with Klutch Sports? (It’s not much of a secret that Los Angeles was AD’s destination of choice well before the trade request was made and we can all hear LeBron James’ clock ticking loudly across the league.)

In case I’ve lost anyone, it should be difficult to take Rich Paul at his word. About anything. For instance, he believes that the Lakers are a great destination for Anthony Davis solely due to their highly decorated history.

Take LeBron off the Lakers. Are the Lakers not a great destination for an arguably top-two player that went to Kentucky and won a national championship, signed with Nike? For a team that’s had centers from George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaq?

When has the past directly helped someone living in the present win games that count? Is Anthony Davis guaranteed to win a championship if he simply joins the Lakers??

Rich Paul doubles down on the silly notion by essentially making the same argument for the New York Knicks as being a preferred landing spot for his client.

He veers off to speak of the Knicks as an equally alluring destination for AD. “The only difference is, they don’t have as many championships as the Lakers,” Paul says. “They got a tradition. It’s a big market—not that it’s only big markets. They have cap space, flexibility, they’re able to absorb more than one star. What’s wrong with that?”

There’s plenty wrong with this take! For starters, there exist other teams who will have the necessary cap space this summer to be able to absorb more than one star. Why aren’t they included on any wish list? Unless, of course, other priorities take precedent over advising a client to select the most conducive environment to winning in an effort to further strengthen one’s legacy.

I’ve never met Rich Paul, but from the stuff we can all gather — hearing present and past players specifically say that the Anthony Davis trade request has been poorly handled — he needs to take a good hard look in the mirror if he wants to find the source of all the feelings of disrespect that he complained about in the SI article.

Look, he took the time to curse about standing 5’6 instead of a claimed 5’8!

Hint: short is short.