Griffin touts new Pelicans hires as Davis decision looms
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Pelicans basketball operations chief David Griffin asserted Tuesday that luring new general manager Trajan Langdon away from a playoff team in Brooklyn is an example of positive momentum in New Orleans that should make Anthony Davis reconsider his trade request.
Griffin said he hopes to meet with Davis in Los Angeles, where Davis has an offseason home, around the time player agents are hosting workouts in southern California for clients that are eligible for the NBA’s June 20 draft.
“We’ll definitely visit. And I think that’s the next step — really to look each other in the eye and talk about what’s important to us,” Griffin said Tuesday during a conference call with the newly hired Langdon and reporters. “We’re very optimistic from previous conversations with Rich Paul, his agent, and with all of the people here that know Anthony and know what he’s about, we’re very confident that we have a compelling situation for him here.
Davis, a six-time All-Star who is under contract one more season, requested a trade in late January, and his future will be one of the dominant stories of the upcoming NBA offseason.
“If winning is what he is indeed all about, which we have every reason to believe, we feel confident that we can create and are creating the right environment for Anthony — and frankly for high-caliber players of all types,” Griffin said.
Griffin also described any reports that the consensus top player in next month’s NBA draft, Duke star Zion Williamson, does not want to play in New Orleans as a “false narrative.”
“We’ve sat with multiple players that we’re looking at for that first pick,” Griffin said, adding that he and Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry met with Williamson and his parents the night the Pelicans won the NBA’s draft lottery. Griffin said they also met with Murray State’s Ja Morant — another coveted prospect whom the Pelicans could try to pair with Williamson by trading Davis for another high draft choice.
“We know unequivocally that either one of them would be thrilled to join us in New Orleans,” Griffin said.
The Pelicans on Sunday hired Langdon, who had worked under Griffin in Cleveland four seasons ago. Langdon spent the past three seasons as assistant general manager with the Nets, a team that earned a sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season after finishing last in the conference just two seasons earlier.
The extent to which the move represents a promotion in more than title for Langdon is not yet clear. Langdon will serve under Griffin, the Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations. In Brooklyn, he served under general manager Sean Marks. Furthermore, Langdon said he and Griffin are still working out what exactly Langdon will be doing day to day.
Leaving Brooklyn was a “very difficult decision for me and my family,” Langdon said. “But the opportunity to join up with Griff again and do something special in a place that nobody believes it can be done — aside from the people in this organization and the city — is something that is very intriguing.
“Whatever Griff needs me to do at any time will be my main responsibility,” Langdon added, who acknowledged that the Pelicans’ luck in last week’s NBA draft lottery made the opportunity even more attractive.
Griffin described Langdon’s hiring as “a situation where I think we’re going to do pretty much everything we do together.”
“This is an opportunity for both of us to push each other and challenge each other,” Griffin said. “The most important thing about having history together and having existing trust in individuals is to challenge each other in ways strangers may not be able to.”
Langdon, 43, is a former Duke and NBA player who also played professionally in Russia, Turkey and Italy, and Griffin said his international experience will be useful in the club’s evaluation of overseas prospects. Langdon also interviewed for the Pelicans’ top basketball operations job that went to Griffin.
When Griffin was introduced by the Pelicans last month, he said he’d received a commitment from owner Gayle Benson to build up the management structure of the club. He has begun doing so by bringing in Langdon, and before that, hiring former Suns executive Aaron Nelson to oversee injury prevention, rehabilitation, performance and recovery programs.
“The next one in is jumping on the bandwagon,” Griffin said. “Mrs. Benson and her ownership team have really changed the approached here. It’s become something that it’s very clearly her baby and the Pelicans matter immeasurably to her and literally in all these (hires), she’s putting her money where her mouth is. ... When you win the lottery in the midst of all those other things, it starts to really lend itself to changing the narrative.”