The Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers has finally been completed (unofficially for another few weeks). Months of drama finally came to an end when the Lakers agreed to send the majority of their young core to New Orleans for Davis, but it was also a weird full circle moment.
While obviously not the exact same trade, with the Lakers getting the No. 4 overall pick in the draft thanks to the lottery, but a similar outline was offered to New Orleans once before during the season after Davis originally made his trade request. Let’s ignore that the Lakers might never get the ability to trade the No. 4 overall pick had the Pelicans sent them Davis earlier in the season because they might have made a playoff run and instead focus on how the trade itself failed.
It did so because the Lakers and Pelicans could never reach enough trust in each other to work out a deal. Some of this had to do with former Lakers president Magic Johnson being not the best person to run a front office, but also due to former Pelicans GM Dell Demps feeling like he was being forced into that situation by other parties.
Demps also just had a general mistrust of the Lakers in general, especially regarding Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, during the original trade discussions, Demps refused to even speak with Pelinka. He would only discuss the trade with Magic.
So the Lakers — really just Johnson, because Demps wouldn’t talk to Pelinka — would call and Demps would write names on the board without giving them any feedback. Those names would leak publicly and do damage to the Lakers’ team chemistry. But eventually, Johnson and the Lakers got the hint and stopped banging up against what had become an incredibly self-destructive wall.
There is a lot to unpack here. The most positive way to look at it is that Demps likely knew of the dysfunction in the Lakers organization between Magic and Pelinka and decided he wanted to speak with the person that was the highest up the ladder. That was Johnson, but you can also look at it as Demps had no respect for Johnson what so ever and decided that he would be the easier one to deal with when discussing a trade he had no interest in making. This isn’t even getting into how disliked Pelinka seems to be across the league. When rival GM’s refuse to even speak to you on a deal I think that says a lot about how you’re viewed by your peers.
David Griffin, the new Pelicans executive vice president, managed to work with Pelinka on making a deal, but this is only after Johnson resigned from the Lakers entirely making Pelinka the only person one can really speak with when it comes to making that trade. This summer has not been a great one for Pelinka’s reputation but he’ll have the newly acquired Davis to fix it.