Ed-itorial: It was time, Demps departure overdue
It was an ugly scene Thursday night at the Smoothie King Center.
One of the Pelicans’ best wins in a woebegone season was overshadowed by the continuing Anthony Davis saga.
He injures his shoulder at the end of the first half. The televising network shows video of Davis, with his agent (of course), leaving the arena at halftime.
After the game, head coach Alvin Gentry storms away from reporters after being asked about his thoughts on Davis leaving early.
Gentry referred to the situation as a dumpster fire.
Which it is.
But, it is not the reason Dell Demps is no longer the general manager of the Pelicans.
Once Anthony Davis made his desire to be traded known, it was time to push the reset button on the entire Pelicans organization.
It was time for the next general manager to make that trade during the summer, select for the Pelicans’ pick in the lottery, and send New Orleans basketball off on a different course.
The Pelicans made a great decision not to trade Davis now, as his agent was trying to force a deal to the Lakers before the trade deadline.
The Pelicans waited.
And, set themselves up for a productive summer.
Demps had some good moments as general manager.
His trading two first rounders to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday, and then signing Holiday to a whopping deal last summer raised eyebrows, but it was justified.
Niko Mirotic was a solid addition. He helped the Pelicans greatly in last season’s playoff run.
But, almost nine years ago, when Demps was hired, he pointed to his former employer, the Spurs, as the model franchise.
San Antonio does it the right way. Build from within, then sprinkle the right free agents for the right price from the outside.
But, Demps eschewed the draft, and went for veteran pieces.
The problem with that is you have to over pay them, and when they don’t work, they inhibit your opportunity to build depth.
For years we heard the Pelicans lament their many injuries, but those can be mitigated with a quality bench.
Good young players, on their rookie contracts, provide that. The Pelicans never had that.
Former head coach Monty Williams was a huge fan of Eric Gordon, who clearly did not want to play here, and should have been traded, or even released.
But, New Orleans spent $60 million to keep Gordon for 4 more years of hoops unhappiness.
When Demps arrived, he had two all rookie team guards, Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton under contract.
Those were two good pieces, at good prices, but Demps jettisoned them.
There were a ton of bad signings, including bloated contracts for Omer Asik and Solomon Hill.
The Demarcus Cousins trade was supposed to be a game changer for New Orleans, but the Pelicans actually made their late season playoff push, without Cousins.
The trade cost them guard Buddy Hield, who was dismissed as an average player by many in the New Orleans media.
This season, Hield has blossomed in Sacramento, averaging 20.5 points, 47.5% field goal shooting, 45% three point field goal shooting, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game.
And, after this season, he has two years remaining on his rookie deal.
Young players take time to develop.
And, Demps’ desire to accelerate the Pelicans ascent in the West, cost the franchise dearly in the long run.
Meantime, the Kings are in playoff contention and Hield and D’Aaron Fox are one of the best young backcourts in the NBA.
The national media, especially ESPN, who cannot wait to promote Anthony Davis in a Lakers, or Knicks, or Celtics uniform, will spin that basketball in New Orleans is in big trouble.
No way. Saints owner Gayle Benson is determined to get basketball fixed, and she and her staff have a huge opportunity.
Hire the right basketball man to run the organization, have patience, and then go out this summer and get an Alpha Dog to lead the club on the court.
The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum has been mentioned as a possible trade piece for Davis.
The other night, he scored 20 and grabbed 10 rebounds in a road win over Philadelphia.
And, he was emotional about it, spurring his teammates on without Kyrie Irving.
If the Pelicans can add a Tatum, or somehow get the first pick in the draft and select Duke’s Zion Williamson, that, along with their lottery pick, give New Orleans a chance for a huge reset.
The Pelicans were more than fair to Dell Demps.
He had nine years, and for nine years he mortgaged the Pelicans future.
Now, it is time to look to a bright one, without him.
ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that he has learned the Pelicans have signed Danny Ferry as the interim GM, citing Ferry’s experience turning around the Atlanta Hawks as a precursor to his upcoming role with the Pels.