LeBron James’ recent comments about how it would be “amazing” to play with New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis have upset general managers around the NBA, according to an ESPN report.
Small-market general managers told ESPN they feel James’ expressed adulation about possibly playing on the same Los Angeles Lakers’ team with Davis was tampering and that the league office should enforce the NBA bylaw that prohibits such comments. The bylaw reads:
“Any Player who, directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce or persuade any Player, Coach, Trainer, General Manager, or any other person who is under contract to any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services shall, on being charged with such tampering, should be given an opportunity to answer to such charges after due notice and the Commissioner shall have the power to decide whether or not the charges have been sustained ...”
The lack of action has peeved some general managers, who feel players should be punished in the same manner as teams who cross the line, according to the report.
“If these are the rules, enforce them,” ESPN quoted one Western Conference general manager as saying. “If you want to push Anthony Davis in L.A., if you allow LeBron to interfere with teams, then just do it. Change the rules, and say, ‘It’s the wild, wild west and anything goes.’
“But give us a list of the rules that you’re enforcing, and give us a list of the rules that you’re going to ignore.”
In recent years, the Lakers were twice fined for tampering — $500,000 for comments about Paul George and $50,000 for remarks about Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But general managers told the network that the NBA looks at comments differently when they come from players.
“Each case is assessed on its own facts,” an NBA spokesman told ESPN. “In general, absent evidence of team coordination or other aggravating factors, it is not tampering when a player makes a comment about his interest in playing with another team’s player.”
Regardless, James’ comments about how “incredible” it would be to play with Davis — the Pelicans play the Lakers on Friday night in Los Angeles — can certainly be looked at something that will make it harder for New Orleans to keep Davis.
Davis isn’t slated to become a free agent until following the 2019-20 season but he recently switched agents and now retains Rick Paul of Klutch Sports, the same agent who represents James.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said at the team’s Friday shootaround that Davis will not be dealt.
“No we’re not trading him,” Gentry told reporters. “We’re not trading him under any circumstance. You can move on from that one.”
Several general managers told ESPN they reached out to New Orleans general manager Dell Demps to express their concerns with the way the NBA closed its eyes to James’ comments.
“It’s New Orleans’ problem today, and a problem with a different player tomorrow for the rest of us,” one Eastern Conference general manager told ESPN. “It’s open season on small markets and our players.”
Representatives of the small-market franchises indicated they believe the NBA is fine with star players navigating toward the bigger markets.
“There is no confidence among most of us — if not all of us — that the league cares about protecting our interests,” one small-market general manager told ESPN. “It’s hard enough already to hold onto the kind of players we need to try and win with — but (the NBA) doesn’t do anything to help.”
The 25-year-old Davis was the No. 1 pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. He’s averaging 28.0 points per game for the Pelicans this season, good for third in the NBA.
—Field Level Media