NBA’s rules regarding ‘competitive integrity’ prevented the Pelicans from sitting Anthony Davis for the rest of the season

A league spokesman said the Pelicans had not identified a "proper basis" to sit Davis.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis reaches for the ball ahead of Memphis Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo during the first half of an NBA game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo / Brandon Dill)

The NBA said Monday it required the New Orleans Pelicans to play Anthony Davis, their disgruntled All-Star, after he was not traded before last week’s trade deadline because of “league rules governing competitive integrity.”

The Pelicans initially planned to sit Davis for the rest of the season once they responded to his request to be traded by deciding to keep him beyond Thursday’s deadline, according to two people familiar with New Orleans’ stance who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

But the league office said it intervened because of its rules about resting healthy players, which are in place largely to prevent teams from weakening their rosters intentionally to incur losses that could improve their draft position in June.

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The Pelicans maintain that they were trying to protect Davis from a serious injury during the final 28 games before the offseason, when they do intend to trade him after they field offers from a wider base of teams than those who made competitive offers last week, according to the people.

Mike Bass, an NBA spokesman, said Monday “the Pelicans were advised that the team had not identified a proper basis” to hold Davis out of games.

“League rules governing competitive integrity therefore require that he be permitted to play,” Bass said.

Bass also denied an ESPN report from last week that said the Pelicans were threatened by the league with per-game fines of $100,000 if they sat Davis when he wanted to play.

Davis, who can become a free agent in July 2020, requested a trade from the Pelicans on Jan. 28 but did not insist that he be traded before the deadline, The Times reported last week. As part of the trade request, Davis also told the Pelicans he intended to decline their offer of a $240 million contract extension in July.

Upon learning of New Orleans’ plans to sit Davis after the Pelicans and Lakers broke off days of contentious trade talks, Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, lobbied league officials on Davis’ behalf to clear him to play, according to the people.