Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis returned to the lineup on January 25 against the Brooklyn Nets after missing 17 games with a sprained MCL in his left knee, and small forward LeBron James welcomed him back with open arms. Behind LeBron and Davis, the Lakers defeated the Nets, 106-96, to improve to 24-24 on the season. They are in eighth place in the Western Conference standings and 5-5 over their last 10 games.
Davis played 25 minutes versus the Nets and finished with eight points, two rebounds, two assists, and four blocks while shooting 3-of-8 from the field. Despite AD putting up pedestrian offensive numbers, LeBron opened up on why the Chicago native is so crucial to the Lakers after the necessary win over the Nets.
LeBron James on Anthony Davis: “He just makes our team so much more complete”
Davis scored the first basket of the Lakers-Nets game. He finished an alley-oop off a beautiful pass from LeBron, who believes his partner in crime played excellent in his return despite scoring only eight points.
“He just makes our team so much more complete,” LeBron said about Davis, via ESPN. “Our length defensively, our ability to really get up in people’s faces because we know we got him at the rim or our ability to switch a lot of things because he can literally guard 1-through-5. Offensively, it just attracts another set of eyes off of myself, off of [Russell Westbrook], off of [Carmelo Anthony], off of [Malik Monk]. Off everybody because he’s such a dynamic player.”
Despite LeBron putting up incredible numbers, the Lakers went 7-10 during Davis’ absence. The eight-time All-Star impacts the game on both sides of the floor at a high level, and LeBron desperately needed him back since Russell Westbrook has been a poor fit in Los Angeles due to his lack of shooting skills and propensity to turn the ball over.
Davis is one of the best players in the NBA, so he presumably would have liked to score more than eight points in his return. However, the one-time champion will definitely play better once he gets his rhythm back and legs underneath him.
Anthony Davis on his return: “For the most part, I felt fine”
LeBron was the main reason the Lakers beat the Nets. The King put up 33 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in 34 minutes and shot 14-of-21 overall and 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.
However, Davis’ return was a massive boost for a club that has played below expectations all season.
“For the most part, I felt fine, felt great out there and the first couple minutes the adrenaline took, and after that the wind caught up to me,” Davis said. “When I caught my second wind, I was fine for the rest of the game. I don’t know about the whole minute restriction thing, I think for me that might come off. Might tell [coach Vogel] I don’t need that, but we’ll see.”
The Lakers take on the Philadelphia 76ers on January 27. Davis will be matched up against Joel Embiid, an MVP candidate who is averaging 28.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. LeBron has scored at least 25 points in 18 consecutive games, so odds are he will play well against the Sixers.
However, Los Angeles won’t beat Philadelphia unless Davis turns back the clock.
LeBron James, Lakers need the old AD
Davis has career averages of 23.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.3 blocks with the New Orleans Pelicans and Lakers. He’s third in NBA history behind Michael Jordan and LeBron in career player efficiency rating and helped Los Angeles win the 2020 championship over the Miami Heat in the Walt Disney World bubble.
LeBron is 37 and in Year 19. While it’s been fun to watch LBJ destroy teams every night this season, the Lakers need Davis (28) to be their best player if they want to win another title. The Brow has to start hitting his jump shots and bullying opposing centers in the paint again. Davis is shooting only 17.9% from beyond the arc this season, and before he hurt his knee, the three-time blocks champion wasn’t a dominant force in the middle.
The Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. It was the first time in LeBron’s career he failed to reach the second round, so he’s surely motivated to go on a deep postseason run this year. However, that will only happen if Davis regains his superstar form.