Davis, Cousins must have doubts about Pelicans leadership status quo

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DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony DavisNEW ORLEANS — Imagine for a moment that you are Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins.

You’re watching the NBA playoffs and wondering when you and your New Orleans Pelicans teammates will have the opportunity to participate in them.

In Davis’ case you’ve been to the playoffs once in your five seasons, having missed them the last two seasons.

In Cousins’ case, you have yet to make the playoffs during your seven-year career, joining the Pelicans in February after having played exclusively for the Sacramento Kings before that.

Both players are under contract — Davis for four more seasons and Cousins for one — but the offseason is when players think the most about the future — the next season and beyond.

Davis and Cousins now know that their immediate future is tied to New Orleans general manager Dell Demps and head coach Alvin Gentry. The Pelicans announced this week that both will be back for next season.

The two big men also know that their future with the Pelicans beyond next season — which Cousins can choose to avoid when his contract expires after next season — will be tied to the men who chose to retain Demps and Gentry — executive vice president of basketball operations Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson.

Davis and Cousins have to be wondering what Loomis and Benson’s decision means for the All-Stars’ ability to achieve their team goals in New Orleans. The management’s endorsement of the status quo came in the form of a three-paragraph, 135-word statement.

Loomis said in the statement that the decision was reached after a “careful and thorough review of basketball operations” in the wake of a season in which the Pelicans finished 34-48, 10th best in the Western Conference (and sixth-worst) and seven games behind the worst playoff qualifier (Portland).

The team’s record after the trade for Cousins (11-14) represented only a slightly higher winning percentage (.440) than the team had prior to the trade (.415).

The result was a four-win improvement over the record of Gentry’s first New Orleans team, which won 15 fewer games than the team did in the season prior to Gentry’s arrival.

Loomis said that retaining Demps and Gentry represented “the best course of action.” The Pelicans have played seven seasons since Demps was hired, missing the playoffs in five of them and winning 41 percent of their games during his tenure.

More Loomis: “We will continue to evaluate important roles on both the administrative and coaching staffs which will be resolved at the appropriate time.”

In other words, those assisting Loomis and Demps as well as those assisting Gentry will be evaluated in search of scapegoats.

If you’re Davis or Cousins, would you digest that explanation and be optimistic that soon you and your Pelicans teammates will be where the Spurs, Warriors, Celtics and Cavaliers — or even those already vanquished by the semifinalists — are?

And, come to think of it, if you’re a Pelicans fan, would you be encouraged about the franchise’s future?

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Les East

Les East


Les East is a nationally renown freelance journalist. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

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