Anthony Davis had his introductory press conference with the Los Angeles Lakers over the weekend. As you can imagine, it featured a slew of superlatives about the player the team feels will be its difference maker – since LeBron James proved to be something less than that last season.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka called Davis the most dominating young basketball player in the world. As we said, the day was filled with rhetoric, some of it obviously overplayed. Davis is not the most dominating young basketball player in the world. What has he done to prove that?
But it is clear the Lakers love him and that Davis is thrilled to be a Laker, happy to be standing side-by-side with King James as the team prepares its assault on the Western Conference championship.
If nothing else, the Davis-James pairing, when aligned with Kawhi Leonard-Paul George with the Clippers and James Harden-Russell Westbrook in Houston will make for a delicious 2019-20 season.
“I would put our roster up against anybody,” said Davis. “I feel like that in a seven-game series that we would come out victorious.”
Hey, why not four games?
It was also a big day for Pelinka, who has been stuck in rush-hour traffic since his personality clash with Magic Johnson after Johnson resigned his executive position. Pelinka needed something to win back the hearts of disenfranchised Lakers fans and completing the deal with New Orleans for Davis will go a long way in mending fences.
You’ll recall Davis coming to the Lakers was the result of Davis telling the Pelicans he wanted to be traded to Los Angeles. He is reportedly very tight with James – they share the same agent (Rich Paul) – and he and Paul shrewdly orchestrated the subtle chaos within the Pelicans organization that convinced it that it would be best to give Davis what he asked for.
“Obviously, it was tough for me to leave a city that I’ve been playing for for seven years, but I think it was best for me and it was my time,” Davis said. “But when I found out I was getting traded to the Lakers, I realized it was an unbelievable opportunity for me to be here with a wonderful organization, and then to play alongside LeBron and obviously now the players that we have now … to get the opportunity to do that and come here and play for an organization that’s all about winning – forget winning, winning championships, and that’s the only goal – I think that was the biggest thing for me. Just the relief there, of not knowing the unknown anymore and knowing where I was going to be next season.”
What’s certain is, the Lakers will look very different next season. Pelinka dealt Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to get Davis and then signed Avery Bradley, DeMarcus Cousins, Danny Green and Rajon Rondo to join forces with Davis, James and Kyle Kuzma.
“If you look at our cap sheet, in July of (2021), we still have the ability to add a max player at that time as we think about building a roster around Anthony Davis,” said Pelinka. “We feel very excited and very happy and pleased that we have a roster we feel like puts us in a position to win now and also keep our flexibility for the future as we look to building a team around Anthony Davis.”
Furthering the suspicion the players are the ones now running the league, Pelinka also admitted he constantly consulted James and Davis about how he should rebuild the roster. Davis had a special request: Sign a center so he wouldn’t have to deal with playing the bigs.
“I’m not even going to sugarcoat it. I like playing the 4. I don’t really like playing the 5,” said Davis. Davis then looked over to Lakers coach Frank Vogel and promised him he’d do whatever was asked of him.
“When Anthony and I first started talking about the roster, he did say, ‘Hey, I’d love to have some 5s that can bang with some length,’” said Pelinka. “And he’s 26. We want a decade of dominance out of him here, right? So we got to do what’s best for his body and having him bang against the biggest centers in the West every night is not what’s best for his body or for our team and the franchise.”
Davis is so intent on getting ready for the season he will not take part in the upcoming USA Basketball training camp and FIBA World Cup. He still wants to play for the 2020 Olympic team, he just doesn’t feel his time would be best spent at this moment away from L.A.
Let’s remember to ask him that question after this next season. It didn’t take long at the press conference for someone to ask Davis if he planned to remain a Laker or just use his one year (he’s a free agent in 2020) as a springboard to better things. He was asked if was willing to sign a long-term deal with the organization.
“I’m focused on this season. My goal is to bring a championship here with the team that we have,” said Davis. “And when that time comes around next year, then you can ask me that question and we’ll revisit it. Right now, my focus is on this year, and trying to figure out how I can help this team and help the organization become a championship team.”
Look, Davis has a lot to prove to live up to Pelinka’s praise. He played only 56 games last season because he was injured and frequently bitching about being in New Orleans. He didn’t make any new friends.
He did average 25.9 points and 12 rebounds and those are very Kevin Durant-like numbers. So the possibility he can be great is great.
“What we think about Anthony Davis is this: There’s no more complete basketball player in the game,” said Pelinka. “There is nothing he can’t do. He can shoot. He can make plays. He can defend 1 through 5. He can protect the rim. He can handle the ball. His dedication to his craft is unparalleled. To sit here next to him and think he’s going to be on our team and that he’s going to be a pillar of this franchise for many years is just something we’re incredibly proud of.”