Gregg Popovich
Jan 27, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) talks with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich following a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Spurs 119-103. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have the opportunity to trade for a second star to pair with LeBron James in the coming week as New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis publicly requested a trade. Although he has not explicitly stated it, it seems clear that Davis wants to join his fellow Rich Paul client in Los Angeles. But if 29 other teams have a say, that will not be the case.

According to ESPN talking head with a goatee, Stephen A. Smith, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich tried to convince Pelicans GM Dell Demps not to trade his franchise star to the Lakers.

Following transcribed by Jeff Garcia of Fox 29 in San Antonio:

“I’ve been told that one of the people that Dell Demps has communicated with is Gregg Popovich. Not for trade talks or anything but a guy like Gregg Popovich has said, ‘Don’t cave to the Los Angeles Lakers.’”

In other words like we did it for Kawhi Leonard.

Don’t think for one second you have to be compelled to move Anthony Davis now. You can wait and that’s what he’s been telling Dell Demps.

Obviously, every Stephen A. report should be taken with a lump of salt. The man’s job is to create controversy. But when Smith has reported things instead of giving his unsolicited opinion, he’s generally seemed to be more in-the-know than most would expect.

Let’s assume for a minute that Smith is right and Pop did talk to Demps about what he should do at the deadline.

Over just the last year and a half, the Lakers have been warned and/or fined for “tampering” with Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo (the latter being because of an offhand comment from team president Magic Johnson who said Giannis would bring a title to Milwaukee). They sent a leaguewide memo because LeBron James, a player not a front office member or coach, said he would like to play with Davis. They fined Davis because his trade request was made public through Paul.

This all serves to show the league’s hypocrisy with their anti-tampering policy. They turn a blind eye to free agents making verbal agreements at the stroke of midnight but as soon as one franchise complains about another (namely, the Lakers), they start an investigation and give a slap on the wrist to those theoretically infringing on the rules. All of the aforementioned decisions occurred as a result of the Pacers, Bucks and Pelicans requesting that the league investigate the issue.

Meanwhile, here is Gregg Popovich giving advice to a different franchise, not because he thinks he will be involved in trade negotiations (people will use that as an excuse like the Spurs have anything of value to offer for Anthony Davis), but because he cannot bear to see the Lakers have two top-five players. That’s why he asked for the farm from the Lakers and got a mediocre package for Kawhi Leonard instead. And now Demps is reportedly not even picking up the phone to discuss trades with the Lakers. If that’s not textbook collusion, what is?

The Lakers will not complain to the league about this because that’s just how it goes for their organization. Even in the longest stretch in franchise history without a playoff appearance, their route to success is filled with obstacles in the form of opposing front offices crying foul. Hello, Chris Paul.

It’s a bad look for the NBA, but it’s not changing any time soon. It’s just reality in the league that claims to be progressive but will fine players for taking control of their careers and turn a deaf ear to the controllers colluding to do anything but give those players what they want.

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