“I’m not a regretful guy. You’re right, I offered a lot of guys, but you have to do that for an Anthony Davis," Johnson said on Monday's episode of First Take. "He’s a special player and the guys that we were going to trade to the Pelicans are special as well. And I told Dell Demps: ‘Let’s just do it in private. What we offer, let’s keep it between us.’ Well Dell didn’t do that, so that’s how it got out, right.”
The Lakers offered their full boat of young prospects—Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart—along with draft picks to acquire Davis before February's deadline. The Pelicans declined, and details of the Lakers' offer were detailed to the press.
Johnson said the young players took the negotiations to heart, though he complimented the way they rebounded:
“I would say that I told Brandon [Ingram], Kyle [Kuzma], all the young guys, [Lonzo] Ball: If you’re in the business long enough, your name is going to get mentioned in trades, don’t take it personally. So what happened was, about that first week, they did take it personally and our writers back home wrote a lot of stories. But I give all of them credit. Brandon Ingram put together a 10-game stretch. He was unstoppable. The things I thought he could do, he did them in those 10 games. I’m telling you Molly [Qerim], this guy is special.
"He guarded Kyrie Irving one night, he’s on Kevin Durant another night, so you can play him on different guys. He is special. Now he’s healthy, I’m glad that surgery went well. And then Kyle Kuzma scored 29 points after that debacle in Indianapolis where we just got blown out. Kyle Kuzma went to Boston, 29 [points]. He then came to Philly, had 30 at halftime, finished with I think 40, I couldn’t remember the ending, 46, 40-something. He got himself together and started hooping and started playing basketball, and they all did. So I wouldn’t change anything, because that’s my job is to make the Lakers better.”
The Lakers negotiations with the Pelicans becoming public were partially responsible for sinking their season. They were already scrapping to make the playoffs when the negotiations leaked and fell apart down the stretch, with nearly every contributor suffering an injury or being shut down.
It's possible the leaks were a purposeful move on the Pelicans' part. The organization clearly did not appreciate the public nature of Davis' trade request and Klutch Sports' attempts to push a trade to Los Angeles—which, ironically, also happened through media leaks. By asking the Lakers for offers and then leaking them, it was an easy way to sink the confidence of a young team.
Johnson previously said he did not believe the Pelicans negotiated in good faith.
Fast-forward a couple months, and both Demps and Johnson are out of their respective front offices while the Lakers and Pelicans still circle around potential trade talks.