Over the summer, as Anthony Davis worked on his body, mind and psyche after another injury-ravaged campaign with the Lakers, a member of his camp expressed something horrific.
“Yo, AD, we’re getting our asses out of LA if we don’t get it right this year.”
Last but not least, Davis has a sense of humor, is friendly and even-tempered.
He laughed when asked if he remembered that comment.
“Man we’ve been talking about this so much I can’t even remember to be honest,” said a smiling Davis.
What Davis does know is that the Lakers want to see him on the court a lot more than the 40 games he played last season. They want to see the best version of Davis. They want him to reach his full potential. They want to see him dominate. They want him to help bring the Lakers another NBA championship.
More than anything they want to see a healthy Anthony Davis this season.
“I mean, fans will remain fans,” Davis said. “Obviously they want to support their team, they want the best for their team and their players. But they don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes. All they see is the game. So you don’t know what’s really going on behind the scenes with the team. But at the same time, I’m the first to look in the mirror and see how I can get better.
“I know that I definitely have to get better. I don’t need a fan to tell me that. They want to see their team win and that’s a good thing. When I look at a fan saying all that about you, they know what you can be. They know you are who they think you are. You just have to go out there and do it.”
Knee and foot injuries took their toll on his body last season. That led to TNT analyst Charles Barkley giving Davis a dubious nickname.
“Yeah, I called it ‘Street Clothes.’ I mean, he got hurt more than he played,” Barkley told the Times. “I mean, I don’t know if he’s ever played 82 games.”
Davis didn’t, Barkley was told. Davis played 75 games in consecutive seasons from 2016-18. He averaged 55 games during his 10-year career.
When Barkley’s comments were relayed to Davis, his jaw clenched and his smile vanished. Barkley’s criticism hit Davis unequivocally.
“I don’t care what he says,” Davis said. “People say things for reviews. They need to push their show, push their blog, push their podcast, whatever it is. So people have to say something to attract viewers. It is what it is. I go out and play basketball and let them do their jobs. My job is to mature. Your job is to talk about me.”
For what it was worth, Barkley said the nine-time All-Star’s talent was undeniable. He has proven to be one of the best two-way players in the NBA, a four-time All-NBA player, and an All-Defensive team member.
“I said, I think it was probably six or seven years ago, I thought he was the best player in the league when he was in New Orleans,” Barkley said. “I said, ‘I think this guy is going to be the best player in the league for years to come.'”
But Davis, who said his back is fine and will be ready when the Lakers open the season against reigning NBA champion Warriors in San Francisco on Tuesday, keeps coming back to the same topic.
“He wasn’t healthy,” Barkley said. “And I’m going to say the same thing I said last year. I said, ‘Forget LeBron [James] and [Russell] To Westbrook and everyone else – because they had all the old guys – I said if Anthony Davis isn’t a top five MVP candidate, the Lakers aren’t going to be good. And I think it’s the same this year. If he’s a top 5 player, they’ll have a chance. If not, they will be mediocre. It’s all on AD.”
Davis said he began training two weeks after the Lakers’ season ended on April 10, a season in which they did not make the postseason. He said he made no changes to his regiment over the summer based on past results and was pleased with how he and his team had handled things. He’s listed at 253 pounds, his 6-10 frame looks more muscular.
On June 11, video surfaced of Davis taking a picture with a friend and then saying, “I haven’t shot a basketball since April, maybe like April 5.”
It went viral and Lakers fans were in turmoil.
“We were done in April or just before that and we weren’t training, so I actually started strength training two weeks into the season,” he said. “I couldn’t do much, so people were always like, ‘Oh, I didn’t put the ball into anything.’ At the same time you had to realize that my foot was still broken. Last year I came after the games and took off my shoe because my foot was so bad. As I said before, the fans don’t know anything about the background. … But my strength did not change. I started earlier and was able to feel a lot better.”
In the 2020-21 season, he played in just 36 of the 72-game schedule shortened by the pandemic, and most of those missed games were due to right calf and heel problems.
He produced big numbers in those two seasons, playing 75 games at his career-high. He averaged 28 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.2 blocks in 2016-17 and shot 50.5% from the field and the next season 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists , 2.6 blocks and shot 53.4% from the field.
In 40 games with the Lakers last season, he averaged 23.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 blocks, and shot 53.2% from the field and a paltry 18.6% from three-point range .
“I think what happened to him, the injury thing, there’s not much he can do about it. I think everyone’s into him because, ‘Oh, he’s always hurt, he’s always that, he’s always that.’ Well, part of that was because he played damn hard,” said Alvin Gentry, a front office manager at Sacramento who coached Davis in New Orleans during that time. “When you’re that big and you play like he does for us, you’re going to come up with a few injuries here and there. So I didn’t have a problem with that because he was a guy who wanted to play. If he couldn’t play, he couldn’t play. But all you have to do is look at his numbers when he’s on the pitch.
“I hear all the talk about him, but there’s not a team in the NBA that wouldn’t want him on it. I hear all this chatter about, ‘Oh, he’s this and he’s that.’ But ask every coach and general manager if they want him on their team.
New Lakers coach Darvin Ham said he relies on Davis to be there when called. Whether he plays center or forward, Ham has outlined what he wants from Davis.
“We talked about it in every conversation we had over the summer,” Ham said. “I said, ‘I want you to be an animal, bro. As if we wouldn’t put you in a position where you could hurt yourself. But I need you to really show up.’”
Lakers fans saw Davis’ dominance during the 2020 playoffs. He averaged 25.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, three assists, and shooting 57.1% from the field and 42.1% from the field in the Finals against the Miami Heat Three point range.
That’s what Lakers fans and the entire basketball community want to see from Davis again this season.
“In terms of ability, he should be one of the top five players in the league,” Barkley said. “Health is #1 for AD. And I think the second thing is that he has to develop a killer instinct. For the Lakers, it’s 100 percent about AD.”
Davis heard all the noise and still does. He’s not out to prove anyone wrong, Davis said, but he has a goal in mind.
“I only have one goal and that is to play in all 82 games,” he said. “I want to be available to my teammates and my coaches as much as possible and give us a chance to win every night.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/lakers/story/2022-10-18/los-angeles-lakers-anthony-davis-healthy-resolve-for-upcoming-season Lakers’ Anthony Davis has a healthy dose of resolve for season