The New Orleans Pelicans have reportedly parted ways with general manager Dell Demps.
Per multiple reports, Demps was let go today and the organization is discussing internal candidates for the GM job. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that list includes former Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry and assistant GM David Booth. Ferry currently works as a consultant for the Pelicans.
Demps’ firing comes amid the fallout after All-Star Anthony Davis said in late January that he would not sign an extension with New Orleans and wants to be traded to a contending team.
Here’s more from Wojnarowski on what may lie ahead for the Pelicans:
New Orleans owner Gayle Benson has been angry over the Davis trade demand and her belief that “outside forces” are trying to push the franchise into decisions that don’t make sense for them, league sources said.
Her mandate has been to “take back control from outside forces,” one league source told ESPN. Benson has been adamant with the organization to find a pathway to sustainable winning in one of the league’s smallest markets, and plans to be aggressive in pursuing the best available candidates to oversee basketball operations, league sources said.
Among preliminary possible candidates, league sources tell ESPN: Former Cleveland GM David Griffin.
Benson owns the Pelicans and New Orleans Saints NFL team, and had Demps reporting to Saints GM Mickey Loomis. The Pelicans are eager to conduct a search that will attract a top basketball executive who’ll take on a more prominent role in the franchise. Benson is promising to pursue a top-level GM to revitalize a franchise that’s coming to a crossroads with the Davis trade.
Davis missed the second half of New Orleans’ game against Oklahoma City on Thursday night with what the Pelicans said was a left shoulder injury. He announced on Jan. 28 that he wouldn’t sign an extension with New Orleans and wanted to be traded to a contending team. However, he was not traded by the Feb. 7 deadline for this season. Demps was at the center of those talks, dealing with interested parties around the league for his All-Star big man.
Demps had been with New Orleans being hired after the 2010 draft. The Pelicans have made the playoffs just three times under Demps, two of which came under former coach Monty Williams (2011, ’15) and last season under coach Alvin Gentry. The Pelicans reached the Western Conference semifinals last season, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors, 4-1.
The decision means a new general manager will be able to oversee whatever trade terms the Pelicans decided to accept in exchange for Davis. The Pelicans enter this season’s All-Star break at 26-33 and unlikely to make the West playoff field this season.
New Orleans hired Demps in large part because of his front office and scouting experience with the San Antonio Spurs, widely seen as the model for contending in a small market.
He arrived during uncertain times for the franchise. Star point guard Chris Paul, a 2005 New Orleans first-round draft choice, was already determined to leave the club because of ownership uncertainty. After Demps was hired, the NBA bought the club from then-owner George Shinn, who was having cash flow problems.
When Demps tried to trade Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA rejected the deal, and Demps ultimately settled on a trade with the LA Clippers that brought in Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu — none of whom remain with the club. Gordon tried to leave as a restricted free agent in 2012, signing an offer sheet from the Phoenix Suns. But Demps said at the time that the Pelicans could not afford to lose Gordon and matched the four-year, $58 million offer.
Saints owner Tom Benson stepped in to buy the NBA club in the spring of 2012 and later renamed it. Benson died last March, and his third wife, Gayle, a New Orleans native with a background in the interior design business, inherited sole ownership of the Saints and Pelicans.
The Benson purchase gave the Pelicans stability and deeper pockets to build around Anthony Davis, but the fact that Benson was then in his 80s increased pressure to win quickly.
Demps traded most of the Pelicans’ Draft picks away for more proven players during his tenure, but those moves often did not live up to their billing — at least not initially. Demps traded two first-round picks for Jrue Holiday, who missed most of his first two seasons in New Orleans because of recurring setbacks with a lower leg injury though is the Pelicans’ second-best player.
In 2016, he traded No. 6 overall pick Buddy Hield to the Sacramento Kings to acquire All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
He had other moves that didn’t fare as well. In 2010, he traded a 2011 first-round pick — which would become Tobias Harris — for reserve guard Jerryd Bayless. Trades in 2013 trade (for Tyreke Evans) and 2015 (for Austin Rivers) never gave the Pelicans the backcourt spark they were hoping for. In back-to-back summers, Demps signed role players such as Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik and Solomon Hill to lengthy contracts that were hard for the team to trade. Last summer, Cousins passed on re-signing with New Orleans for a smaller deal with the Warriors.
New Orleans traded away its 2018 first-rounder last season to acquire Nikola Mirotic, who was traded to Milwaukee at this season’s trade deadline, shortly after the Davis fallout forced the Pelicans to start planning for a future without their marquee player.
As this season’s trade deadline grew closer, it became more and more apparent the Pelicans were not going to deal Davis. After Davis was not traded, the Pelicans made it clear they intended for Davis to play for them going forward. Since the Feb. 7 trade deadline, Davis has played in four games, averaging 15.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Overall this season, he’s averaging 28.5 ppg, 13.1 rpg and 4.2 apg.
After a 118-88 loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, Davis called out the effort of his team after a poor showing himself (1-for-9 shooting, three points).
”We sucked,” Davis said. ”Nobody was interested in playing, is what it looked like.
“Obviously I missed a lot of shots, a lot of easy shots – layups and stuff that I normally make- early in the game,” Davis added. ”But they came out more desperate. They played like they were playing for something, and they showed it.”
The Pelicans have known removing Demps was a move that was coming for several weeks, per a variety of sources .
They initially hoped to do it at the end of the season.
— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) February 15, 2019
I’ve been told Alvin Gentry is still in good standing with ownership.
However, the next GM will likely get to make a decision on his next head coach.
— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) February 15, 2019
In the final seconds of the half last night, Davis fouled Nerlens Noel while trying to block the Thunder forward’s shot with his left hand. As Davis walked to the locker room for halftime, he appeared to keep his left arm still while his right arm swayed normally. Davis did not emerge from the locker room to start the second half and the club announced his injury status shortly afterward. Gentry declined to address his reaction to Davis’ departure.
“To tell you the truth, this whole thing has been a dumpster fire,” Gentry said, alluding to the effect Davis’ trade demand has had on the rest of the team. “It’s hard for guys to go through what they’ve been through, and to be able to come out and beat a team of that quality, I’m happy for all the guys.”
Per Wojnarowski, the Pelicans’ ownership and senior management have been pleased with the job Gentry and his staff have done during tumultuous times. Scott Kushner of The Advocate says Gentry’s in good standing with management, but that could change depending on who becomes the next GM.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.