With a 2-10 record and an injured LeBron James, the season could very easily have ended a week ago for the Los Angeles Lakers. A few more losses and their hole would be too deep to climb out of. Instead, the Lakers went back 4-10 withahead of them. Who do they thank for this? Anthony Davis.
“He’s the best player in the league.” – Lonnie Walker IV said after a 128–121 victory over the Pistons on Friday. “It’s all about bringing it night and night.”
This honorific may be a little too much, but Walker is just around the corner. In Los Angeles’ last two victories, Davis has combined 75 points and 34 rebounds. In four games without James, he averages 32.5 points, 13 rebounds and 2.5 assists. His struggle to assert himself alongside James and Russell Westbrook was one of the Lakers’ main stories early in the season. Now he’s keeping the Lakers afloat without their best player, and their coach hopes he can keep him alive even after James returns.
“LeBron knows we need Anthony to play like that,” Darwin Ham said. said after the game. “We [all] know we have to get AD coming. This gives us the best chance of success.”
Davis played more aggressively, largely out of necessity. He tends to play a passive role when he shares the court with James and Westbrook, who are both very good on the ball. But as the last few games have shown, good things happen to the Lakers when they put the ball in Davis.
And luckily for him, reinforcements arrived on Friday. While James missed the Pistons game, backup guard Dennis Schroeder and backup center Thomas Bryant made their season debuts for the Lakers. Bryant, in particular, is known for his previous success as three-point shots. This season, the Lakers couldn’t pair Davis with a traditional big man often because it would ruin their offensive distance. If Bryant can hit three-pointers consistently from center, Davis could theoretically return to power forward where he’s more comfortable.
But against the Pistons and the Nets, Davis looked comfortable wherever he played. After two frustrating and injury-ridden seasons, the Lakers finally got the Davis version that helped them win the 2020 championship. Only time will tell if he can maintain this style of play with a completely healthy roster, but if he can, the Lakers could have quite a few more wins ahead of them.