Anthony Davis: 'I knew I needed to get stronger'

by Jim Eichenhofer

During Anthony Davis’ USA Basketball conference call Friday with New Orleans media members, one reporter remarked that he can detect a difference in the power forward’s physique even while watching him work out from 100-plus feet away in the Pelicans’ practice facility. The 238-pound Davis, who has been focused on adding muscle to his frame since the regular season ended in April, stated what everyone already seemed to know: Weight training has been a primary focus of summer 2014.

“That was a big part,” said Davis, whose ideal playing weight for next season is 240 pounds. “I knew that I needed to get stronger, so that was definitely one of the top priorities on the list, to make sure I’m in the weight room. I think I’m doing a great job of that so far, working to improve on the weight side and keep getting stronger. That was definitely tops on the list, going into this season.”

Davis’ ongoing preparations for 2014-15 continue next week in Las Vegas, where he’ll be one of many big names participating in a USA Basketball training camp. USAB will practice Monday through Thursday, then hold its showcase game on Friday, Aug. 1 (8 p.m. Central, ESPN). Davis used last year’s showcase game as a springboard for his banner 2013-14 season, scoring 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting from the field. He also grabbed seven rebounds in only 23 minutes of playing time.

The 21-year-old said his noticeable change in upper-body muscle has come from consistent time spent in the weight room this summer, often with the Pelicans’ director of athletic performance, Carlos Daniel. Davis believes he’s adding functional strength that will help him in specific situations, particularly against heavier opponents.

“It shows the work that I’ve been putting in with Carlos in the weight room,” Davis said. “It’s given me more ability to attack the basket, finish through contact and make sure guys don’t knock me off my line when I’m driving to the basket. Or if I’m posting up or playing post defense. All of that matters, when it comes to strength. (So that) when I get put in certain situations, (I can work on) what best helps to try to compensate for the weight difference, whether it’s working on legs – getting my legs stronger – or my upper body, and just figure that out and lift accordingly.”

In the three-plus months since the Pelicans wrapped up 2013-14, Davis has seen improvements in a few areas of his game, including his shooting touch. He’s eager to attempt to carry that over to the court, particularly with and against some of the NBA’s premier young talents next week.

“I feel like I’m a little better,” he said of his offseason. “I’ve added a couple things in my package. But you never know until it actually happens and you actually go out there and play. I’m confident in my skill set, my game and what I’ve been working on. You’ve got to out and test it out and see if I can put it to use.”

The USA team’s schedule over the remainder of the NBA offseason is relatively hectic, particularly from a travel standpoint, including three exhibition games Aug. 16-22 in Davis’ hometown of Chicago and New York City. The Americans will then travel to Spain and begin pool play in the FIBA World Cup on Aug. 30, playing five games in six days (a stretch that ends Sept. 4). The final round of the world championships takes place Sept. 14, just two-plus weeks before most NBA players will report to training camp.

Asked if he’s concerned about fatigue or wear and tear on his body entering the lengthy NBA season, Davis said that he expects the experience to benefit him and give him a head start on 2014-15. Even if he weren’t involved in international competition this fall, he’d be playing fullcourt, five-on-five games in order to maintain his conditioning and stay in basketball shape.

“The only thing in my mind right now is to play, play, play,” he said. “I love the game so much. I definitely just love playing, especially in the summertime. That’s when you get better… I definitely want to play, keep my wind and keep my game sharp.”