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Why is Houston allowed to sit John Wall for seemingly as long as the Rockets want when the Pelicans were forced to play Anthony Davis in similar circumstances? Excellent question
The New Orleans Pelicans came to the dreaded conclusion well before the end of the 2018-19 season.
They knew they were going to have to trade Anthony Davis during the ensuing off-season at the latest to guard against ultimately losing their best player in free agency without compensation. So the Pelicans hatched a plan to hold Davis out of games to protect against an injury that could damage their trade prospects.
Then the plan had to be scrapped almost immediately. The NBA stepped in when no Davis trade materialized at the February 2019 trade deadline and forced the Pelicans to play Davis in several games after the deadline to adhere to "league rules governing competitive integrity."
If you remember that fairly recent drama, perhaps you have wondered why league officials haven't intervened this season to compel the Houston Rockets to play John Wall in (somewhat) similar circumstances. The NBA absolutely should take that step but hasn't shown any inclination to intervene — not even with the Rockets stumbling to a woeful 1-16 start before Wednesday's upset of visiting Chicago.
Davis obviously had a much larger profile with the Pelicans than Wall does four seasons removed from his last All-Star selection, so his absence made more noise, but that's not the only notable distinction in these cases. Last season, Oklahoma City came to a mutual agreement with former All-Star big man Al Harford to shelve Horford for the Thunder's final 28 games, with both player and team determined to find a new home for Horford via trade in the off-season. The NBA curiously sat back and let that happen and the Thunder, with Harford in mothballs and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sidelined through injury, closed out the 2020-21 campaign on a 3-25 slide after a 19-25 start.
When it emerged in September that the Rockets had hashed out their own mutual agreement with Wall that he would also be sitting out Horford-style while healthy to relinquish his minutes to younger players — with two years and nearly $92 million left on Wall's contract — Houston had the more recent precedent on their side to go through with its plan.
This stuff isn't supposed to happen in an era when the league has repeatedly voiced its determination to crack down on teams that rest players to weaken their rosters intentionally in the name of tanking. Wall, remember, averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists in 32.2 minutes per game in 40 games for the Rockets last season after losing two full seasons to knee and Achilles injuries. While we can debate how much he would actually raise the Rockets’ floor at age 31, it figures that Wall could steer them to something better than the club’s current 9-73 pace.
Another major difference between Wall's situation and Horford's: He gave the impression this week that his street-clothes-only status is not completely mutual when he responded positively on social media to a tweet from a fan asserting that Wall is "getting punished for something you can’t control."
Turns out …
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