NBA says it didn’t threaten to fine Pelicans for benching Anthony Davis

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 tanking to incur losses that could improve their draft position in June.

The Pelicans maintain they were trying to protect Davis from a serious injury during the final 28 regular-season games before the offseason, when they do intend to trade him, according to the people.

Mike Bass, an NBA spokesman, said “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 New York Times reported last week.

Briefly: The NBA is going to investigate whether league rules were broken when Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons inquired about meeting with Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson for playing tips. Johnson revealed over the weekend that Simmons expressed a desire to meet, and indicated that he would be willing to partake in such a session with the 76ers’ starting point guard if all parties involved granted permission. … The Cavaliers signed well-traveled Nik Stauskas, who was traded three times and released last week, for the rest of the season.

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