Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers fell well short of competing for a second straight NBA title. The Lakers are now heading toward a pivotal offseason, where considerable changes will lie ahead. Among those may see Davis take on a greater responsibility that extends well off the court that involves LeBron James.
Anthony Davis’ injury struggles impede Lakers’ title defense
The Lakers ventured into the 2020-21 campaign with high aspirations of capturing a second straight NBA title.
However, those hopes progressively fell apart as the season wore along. Injuries became a significant part of the equation, with Davis’ physical struggles piling up as he suffered an Achilles-related injury in February that forced him to miss two months.
The 28-year-old returned to finish the regular season but continued to deal with nagging injuries. Davis powered through it, but it all came to a head in the playoffs as he first hyperextended his left knee.
He followed that with a strained groin suffered in Game 4 that kept him off the floor for Game 5. He attempted to give it a go in Game 6 but reaggravated the injury five minutes into the first quarter. His absence significantly impacted the team on both ends of the floor, resulting in Los Angeles bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.
As the Lakers move through the offseason, Davis holds a pivotal change ahead.
Anthony Davis will ‘Take the torch’ from LeBron James for the Lakers next season
Davis wrapped up his second season with the Lakers playing alongside James.
The 28-year-old begins the second year of his five-year, $190 million deal while the four-time league MVP heads toward his 19th NBA campaign. It places Davis into the spot of transitioning to a more prominent role with the franchise as James moves closer to the end of his career.
During Jared Dudley’s exit interview for the 2020-21 season, he voiced that the eight-time All-Star is hedging toward becoming the clear-cut centerpiece in Los Angeles.
“We salute [LeBron]. People say he’s slowing down, and it’s natural to slow down a little bit,” Dudley said via Silver Screen and Roll. “That’s why you have Anthony Davis. That’s where he has to take the torch, and that’s where he will take the torch next year.”
As phenomenal as LeBron James continues to be on the basketball court, it became crystal clear that the Lakers need Davis healthy if they hope to contend for another NBA title. The 17-time All-Star echoed that notion after the Game 6 loss to the Suns.
“Obviously number one thing for us is getting AD healthy,” James said. “That’s number one. It doesn’t matter what changes we make. We got to get big fella healthy and needs back to where he was before the injury.”
James will return next season healthy and motivated to prove he has plenty of gas left to perform at an elite level, but Davis may now hold the key to championship contention.
The focus must remain on health
Beyond Davis grabbing a more prominent role on the floor and locker room, the overarching focus is on his health.
The star forward holds a long history of dealing with nagging injuries throughout his first nine seasons. The Lakers came off the shortest offseason in league history for a defending champion, but it doesn’t brush aside the health issues.
Davis is coming off playing a career-low 36 regular-season games, placing massive importance on re-emphasizing his training regimen. Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett recently called out the 28-year-old on that due to dealing with constant injuries in the prime of his career.
Be it altering his workout regimen or changing his diet, Davis’ health is key to the Lakers’ hopes of competing for more NBA titles.