Auburn Hills — The news of Pelicans forward Anthony Davis requesting a trade shook the NBA news cycle on Monday. Although his contract extends through next season, Davis — through his agent, Rich Paul — put the Pelicans and the league on notice that he didn’t want the supermax deal for five years and $240 million and wanted to be with a contending team.
It’s a power flex for a superstar to force his way out of a team that’s invested heavily in him but hasn’t had the results or the players around him to have much playoff success. It’s the direction the league is going, with super teams building and star players leaving small-market teams for greener pastures.
Pistons forward Blake Griffin, who was traded from the Clippers at the deadline last January, has seen both sides. He had just signed a max contract the previous summer and was dealt within a year. He compared that to the Raptors’ decision to trade DeMar DeRozan to acquire Kawhi Leonard last summer.
“A player has to do what’s best for him and not worry about the backlash. It’s going to happen, so you can’t really control it,” Griffin told reporters on Monday. “Teams are able to do whatever they want. Normally, they don’t get backlash unless they don’t do it the right way.
“You look at Toronto and a lot of people said stuff about Toronto and how they handled that situation. That’s pretty much the only time a team can be in the wrong in that situation.
“A player, if he wants to be in a better situation or have a chance to win or be closer to his family — whatever it may be — a lot of times, it’s looked at negatively. As players, you can’t worry about that and guys are starting to realize that and are prepared for the backlash that comes with it.”
It’s an unenviable spot for a team to be in, trying to build around a player but not getting it done in a way that Davis saw as a long-term fit. Although the Lakers and Celtics look to be the leaders to land Davis, there are more teams in the league who don’t have a reasonable shot at landing a franchise player like Davis.
The players had a rare three-day break between games and after taking Saturday off, they got back to work on Sunday and Monday, prepping for Tuesday’s matchup against the Bucks. Coach Dwane Casey said the team is taking advantage of the extra prep time and trying to iron out some of their issues.
“It was really beneficial for us to get some work in. Going into the New Orleans game (on Wednesday), we had two of our best practices, which have really been productive in getting things done,” he said. “We’re trying to get everybody back healthy, so it’s been a needed two days of practice.”
Griffin said it was a welcome respite to help get back in sync and to get some rest away from the grind of the regular schedule.
“It helps a lot. We haven’t had three days between games since November — just that rest for guys who are banged up,” Griffin said. “It gives us a chance to work on some things we’ve been missing and that helps a lot. It only helps if you take advantage of it personally as a team. The real test is how we look (Tuesday) night.”
Ish Smith (groin tightness) went through Monday’s practice in anticipation of returning during the four-game home stand. Casey said he’s not sure whether Smith will be cleared, but the Pistons have missed his energy and speed off the bench.
Pistons vs. Bucks
Tipoff: 7 Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The Bucks (35-13) have won all three meetings this season, including two by 23 points. Guard Eric Bledsoe is averaging 20.7 points — his second-highest total against any team — versus the Pistons.