The Los Angeles Lakers were dealt a harsh blow on Tuesday after star forward LeBron James tested positive for COVID-19. James will miss the next several games, placing increased pressure on Anthony Davis to guide the franchise forward in his absence. Despite that, Davis believes the situation presents a crucial silver lining for him that could greatly benefit the Lakers.
LeBron James tests positive for COVID-19
The 2021-22 campaign has been nothing short of frustrating for James due to health issues.
The 17-time All-Star hit another hurdle as he tested positive for COVID-19 hours before Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers immediately placed James on the health and safety protocol list, as he will miss at least 10 days. He will require two negative PCR tests within 24 hours to receive medical clearance to play.
James’ absence is another significant blow to the Lakers, but Davis sees the matter as an opportune situation to grow in a crucial area.
Anthony Davis discovers a silver lining in the wake of LeBron James’ latest absence
James’ absence immediately places a significant onus on Davis to step up as the clear-cut primary offensive factor.
It isn’t a new responsibility for the star big man as he’s embraced being the scoring focal point since arriving to Los Angeles. With the Lakers struggling to find their footing, the task has become more critical to the team’s success. However, Davis sees the situation through another lens as he believes it’s testing his leadership capabilities.
“It’s like I’m being tested with my leadership,” Davis said to Yahoo Sports‘ Chris Haynes. “’Bron has been out with injuries and now also with the COVID situation, so it’s a good test for me. It’s a good experience for me to lead these guys and the good thing about it, I have other vets on my side who’ve been in the game for a while to help me through the obstacles. It’s a good test, not just for our team, but for me to lead these guys.”
Since joining the Lakers, Davis has operated secondary to James in the leadership capacity. It’s not a slight against the All-Star big man, as the four-time league MVP has taken up that role throughout much of his career.
Meanwhile, James’ extended absence places Davis as the vocal leader on the floor through his play and communication with his teammates. He’s currently averaging 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. Davis certainly holds the benefit of playing with a veteran-laden roster around him, but it’s a responsibility that he’s embracing fully.
“I’m just taking that next step in leadership to my career,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “I’m going to lead the team my way. I’m trying to be one of the guys to express how he feels in our locker room. [Rajon] Rondo, ’Melo [Anthony], Russ [Westbrook] have all been encouraging me to use my voice because I’m normally a really quiet guy when I’m playing and the only time I really talk is when I get tipped over the edge. But they’ve been telling me to ‘Use your voice. Use your voice.’”
Davis only stands to grow in this aspect as it may become a pivotal factor when James finally steps into retirement.
Lakers need more much than Anthony Davis to build forward momentum
Beyond Davis’ increased leadership responsibility, the Lakers must continue to chug forward.
The 36-year-old is expected to miss at least the next four games. The upcoming schedule features favorable matchups against struggling teams in the LA Clippers, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Los Angeles may have found some essence of momentum behind their two-game winning streak. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook appears to have turned a corner as he’s averaging 25.7 points, 8.5 assists, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals while shooting 49.5% from the field. Westbrook will assume a more significant offensive role with James sidelined, taking some of the offensive onus off Davis.
The upcoming stretch will reveal the Lakers’ growth as a unit that could finally see them build forward momentum.