If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to add an 18th championship banner, they are going to need both LeBron James and Anthony Davis at their best. The two superstars were at the forefront of LA’s title run in 2020, but injuries hampered both of them in 2021. As a result, a hobbled Davis and tired James fell to the Phoenix Suns in the first round.
With less than a month until the regular season, a healthy LeBron spoke during Lakers Media Day. When asked about his running mate, the King confirmed that the Brow is planning on coming back with a vengeance.
Injuries to Anthony Davis sunk the Los Angeles Lakers
During Davis’ first season in the Purple and Gold, his impact was immediate. The former New Orleans Pelican averaged 26.1 points in 62 regular-season games. He then suited up in all 21 of LA’s playoff contests, scoring 27.8 points per game en route to winning his first NBA championship.
However, the 2012 first overall pick did not have a successful sequel in Hollywood. Davis made it 23 games before aggravating his Achilles and straining his calf against the Denver Nuggets. After a little over two months, Davis returned to the court for 13 more games. AD finished the regular season with 21.8 points per game, the third-lowest of his career, in 36 of a possible 72 games.
The Lakers were in solid shape against the Suns, up 2-1 in the series after Davis scored 34 points in Games 2 and 3. But the 6-foot-10 star strained his groin in Game 4 after about 19 minutes of action. After losing Game 4 by eight points, the Lakers lost Game 5 by 30 as Davis watched from the bench. He miraculously tried to give it a go for Game 6, but he made it around five minutes before leaving the court for the final time that season.
LeBron James is excited to see a motivated Davis next season
The Lakers made plenty of roster changes over the summer, but the crux of their success will still boil down to James and Davis. And according to LeBron, AD is ready to bounce back in a big way.
“A lot of people go through the summer and they like to post their workouts, post their training, and post everything that they’re doing,” James told Spectrum SportsNet. “If there was one guy that you did not see this summer until he got married last week, it was Anthony Davis. But I knew everything that he was doing, putting in the work both in the weight room and also on the court.”
James clarified that more than anything, AD wants to prove to himself that he can be at full strength for the Lakers (h/t Spectrum SportsNet).
“It’s not even about proving people wrong; it’s about proving himself right. … He’s one of the best players we have in this league, and I’m looking forward to a very angry Anthony Davis.”LeBron James
Davis wants to prove that he’s healthy after last season, but also after injuries from previous years as well. The 28-year-old has played more than 68 games in a season twice and has never eclipsed 75 games in any of his nine NBA seasons.
Davis’ role change could keep him healthier
Throughout his career, Davis has seen time at both power forward and center. In his last two years with LA, he’s been more of the former, playing alongside true centers like JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard, and Marc Gasol. But that appears likely to change in year three.
Davis confirmed he will play more center for the Lakers this season. According to reports, he would serve as the lone “big” in a starting lineup that would include James, point guard Russell Westbrook, and 3-and-D wings Wayne Ellington and Trevor Ariza.
“We’re going to see what that looks like, and I’m comfortable with that,” Davis said regarding how he feels about playing center. “Obviously there are times where Dwight [Howard] or D.J. [DeAndre Jordan] might get the start at center depending on games, but for the most part I think the plan is to go with me playing center.”
The Lakers have had success in the past with Davis at center, but it could keep him healthier as well. AD primarily played center in 2016-17 in New Orleans, appearing in 75 games and averaging around 36 minutes a night. Keeping Davis in the paint and limiting the amount of ball-handling he was otherwise doing might keep him fresh as the season rolls along.
Regardless of position, Lakers fans, as well as LeBron, are excited about having a healthy AD back on the court.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.