The very premise of this NBA season was new faces in new places would lead to some spectacular things.
We haven’t seen it yet in New Orleans because Zion Williamson is hurt. But Kyrie Irving scored 50 on opening night for the Nets, Kawhi Leonard is lighting it up with the Clippers and Michael Westbrook certainly has been sunny side up in Houston.
Still, no relocation story has poked the interest of more people than Anthony Davis’ arrival in Los Angeles to sit at the right hand of The King, LeBron James.
You figured this coupling might soon stand on its own next to the other great pairings in Lakers history – West and Wilt, Magic and Kareem, Kobe and Shaq. Dyan Cannon and Jack Nicholson.
And after seeing what Davis did Tuesday night against the Grizzlies at the Staples Center, you’d have to say all the attention has been warranted.
Playing with a sore right shoulder should have made for a long night for Davis. You know, it might hurt when he extended his arm or curved an elbow to block out on a rebound. He should have winced his way around the floor.
Instead, he wielded his buttressed wing in superstar fashion by fashioning perhaps the best game any player has yet this season.
Davis scored 40 points and added 20 rebounds to help the Lakers to a convincing 120-91 win. And he played just 31 minutes.
Here’s a few particulars from the NBA: Davis became the first Laker with a 40-point, 20-rebound game since Shaquille O’Neal in 2003. And he went 40-20 with the least playing time since minutes started being tracked during the 1951-52 season.
There’s more: Davis joined O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the third Lakers player with 100 points, 10 blocks and 10 assists through his first four games with the organization since the block became an official stat in 1973-74.
And he did it in a way the notoriously errant Shaq would have never been able to – by training 26-of-27 from the foul line, a new franchise record for made free throws.
“I don’t even think he’s scratched the surface yet,” said James.
Not a bad way to break in.
According to the NBA, Davis’ 26 made free throws are tied for the fourth all-time in league history. He’s also just the fourth (Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Adrian Dantley) to make more than 25 free throws in a game.
Davis got himself into this mess with a fit of over-exuberance over the weekend when he missed a slam in a win over the Hornets. ESPN tells us Davis had been a little out of sorts since, but the Lakers medical staff cleared him to play.
Davis had told reporters nothing since he was injured. Rather than update the media on his condition on Tuesday, he broke the league rules by blowing off reporters after the shoot-around and pregame. Players are required to make themselves available so the media can tell you what’s up.
Even Lakers coach Frank Vogel wasn’t sure Davis would be able to play until shortly before tip-off. The Lakers didn’t even put him on their injury report. And there was a moment in the second quarter when he left the floor to have the shoulder re-taped.
No sweat. How on point was Davis? He made all 18 of his free throws in the third, setting a league record for most makes in a quarter. He scored 20 in the third and sank just one field goal.
“I was really just trying to figure it all out,” said Davis. “It was bothering me a lot. It was very sore, but I didn’t want to come out of the game. I just came to the back and adjust some things. Felt good to go back out, and I went back out late in the second, felt good, did some more stuff at halftime. Went out in the third. We wanted to actually just test it out in the third, and it felt good. That was that.”
If you’ve followed Davis’ career, you know he took a lot of heat with the Pelicans for being soft. The word was he didn’t like to play through the pain. He said that was on his mind on Tuesday.
“Obviously I have a list of [injuries] and I just try to play, fight through them and do what I’ve got to do to help the team,” said Davis. “I’m here to be one of the leaders of the team, and it’s tough for me to do that on the sideline.
“It’s going to be a long season, tough process, to do what we want to do. You’ve got to have fun with it. That’s the only way to get through it.”
Perhaps as a direct result of Davis, the Lakers are 3-1, their best start since beginning 8-0 in 2010-11.
“He’s been doing everything he can to get ready for tonight and he did that,” said James. “And obviously nowhere near 100 percent, (when) you have a performance like that, it’s pretty cool.”