State of flux

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Anthony L. Cuaycong


In the face of the Pelicans’ apparent stonewalling of the Lakers heading into today’s trade deadline, not a few quarters have wondered what the best course of action for them truly is. Conventional wisdom has them benefiting the most via the adoption of a wait-and-see stance; for all the talented pieces the extremely active purple and gold have compiled in the offer on the table, it pales in comparison to that which the Celtics could conceivably — and, based on pronouncements behind closed doors, would likely — present in the offseason.

The operative words, of course, are “would likely,” since anything can literally happen in five months. And it’s why the Lakers may yet end the week with Anthony Davis in the fold. There’s really just one chance that they do, and it’s a slim one: They’re banking on the Pelicans ultimately believing in the cliche about the bird in the hand as opposed to the two in the bush. No doubt, they’ve already put forth the argument that the net present value of their proffer for the taking is higher than that which the Celtics can come up with.

Parenthetically, there are intangibles that the Pelicans need to weigh before making their decision. Are they okay with enduring five more months of uncertainty — with a pouting Davis still on the roster — instead of rebuilding as fast as practicable? It’s fair to contend that hard feelings emanating from the All-Star’s strong-arm tactics will fuel their resolve to stand pat instead of giving him exactly what he wants. Even as they’ll do the deal they deem best for the future, their assessment is naturally — and perhaps rightly — colored by their experience.

For those from the outside looking in, the safe bet is for the Pelicans to keep Davis for the remainder of their 2018-19 campaign and dangle him in summer. For them, though, the safe bet is the opposite. Even as the Celtics lie in wait and aim to pounce soonest, the prospect of fate playing tricks on plans, however ironed out, cannot be eliminated. Trade target Jayson Tatum can get injured in the midst of what figures to be a long playoff run. Resident top dog Kyrie Irving can bolt for the Knicks and thus compel the green and white to reconsider options. The Lakers, sensing the depressed market, can lessen the projected outflows.

At this point, it’s clear that the Pelicans will be in a state of flux regardless of the move they make — or, as the case may be, don’t make. How much gambling they’re willing to do figures to inform their decision. And everyone else is left to ponder the whens and whys until, and definitely long after, the trade deadline comes and goes.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.