NBA pressures Pelicans to play Anthony Davis, team restricts minutes

Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans do not want to risk Anthony Davis getting injured before they trade him, but the NBA says, “Too bad.” To minimize potential damage, the team seems to have placed him on a permanent minutes restriction.

After a drama and question filled last couple of weeks, Anthony Davis finally returned to action last night as the New Orleans Pelicans took on the Minnesota Timberwolves. There was much speculation about whether or not the Pelicans would play Davis after the trade deadline, but it seems the league has stepped in and made that choice for New Orleans.

Anthony Davis made it clear that he wanted to play once he was recovered from his finger injury, yet the Pelicans kept him on the bench Monday night against the Pacers and Wednesday versus the Bulls even though he was reportedly ready to come back. With the trade deadline passing and Davis still being on the team, there was debate about whether or not the NBA would allow the Pelicans to keep him on the bench till the year ended.

The answer was “No,” as the league threatened to fine New Orleans $100,000 for every game Davis sat while healthy.

There are a slew of reasons why the New Orleans Pelicans might have preferred to keep Anthony Davis shut down for the remainder of 2018-2019. They know they will trade him this summer, and now he is at risk of sustaining injury in this final stretch of games. He ups the odds of the Pelicans winning games, which hurts their draft position. It’s also just kind of awkward for players and fans alike seeing a guy that doesn’t want to be on the team anymore stepping on the court.

Still, the Pelicans don’t want to test the league and sustain heavy fines, so they allowed Davis to get back into the lineup last night. However, there is nothing stopping the Pelicans from limiting Davis’ minutes every night.

Friday, Davis tallied 25 minutes of playing time, which is noticeably low for a star of his caliber. This was a full 12 minutes under his average amount of 37 minutes per game he was previously seeing this season. Despite the game being so close and finishing at 122-117 in favor of the Pelicans, Anthony Davis was held out for the entire fourth quarter of the contest.

It seems this is what we should expect to see for the remainder of the season. Close games or not, New Orleans does not want to risk anything happening to Davis, or the team winning any unnecessary games. If he and the league demand he plays, so be it. But no one should expect to see him get close to 37 minutes of action in a Pelicans jersey again, barring of course, another intervention by the NBA.

Even in a more limited role, Davis made his presence known against Minnesota Friday night. He put up a dominate 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks all while playing a full 12 minutes under his usual amount. He had a staggering team best +22 plus/minus, which is even more impressive considering how close the game was. So restricted or not, Davis will still get numbers, which should keep him and the league satisfied.

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It’s not an ideal situation for the New Orleans Pelicans to try to begin a rebuild while being forced to play Anthony Davis, but they are smart to limit his minutes going forward. Throughout this process, the Pelicans have been doing their best to manage a difficult scenario. Hopefully keeping Davis off the court more than usual maintains his good health and keeps his overall impact on the win/loss column minimal. We’ll keep you updated as the situation continues to unfold.