(Erica Rodriguez/Los Angeles Lakers)
Davis: 'I'll Put Our Roster Up Against Anybody'
Sitting in between the man who brought him to Los Angeles and the man tasked with coaching him to glory, Anthony Davis gave his endorsement for those not in the room.
“I like our roster, I like every player that we have from (player) one through 14,” Davis said. “I’m excited about it. I’ll put our roster up against anybody. I feel like that in a seven-game series that we would come out victorious.”
Of course, it all starts with Davis and fellow superstar LeBron James, who was on hand at UCLA Health Training Center for his new teammate’s introductory press conference on Saturday.
Rob Pelinka declared Davis “the most dominant young basketball player in the world” and proclaimed “there is no more complete basketball player in the game.” And, most importantly, the Lakers’ General Manager announced the tandem of Davis and James as “two of the top five players in all of basketball.”
Watch out, league. He’s here. pic.twitter.com/0BUDIFYgEf— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 13, 2019
That level of firepower has rarely been seen throughout NBA history, although this summer has seen an arms race of teams trying to pair stars together — from Brooklyn’s courting of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Clippers’ recruitment of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
But Davis’ response was one of confidence: Bring on anybody in a seven-game battle.
Notably, Davis vouched for the entire roster instead of comparing his partnership with LeBron against other star duos.
One of the group’s greatest strengths should be their shooting. A year after hitting the league’s second-worst 3-point percentage, the Lakers have brought in talent to amend that.
Danny Green (45.5 percent last season), Quinn Cook (40.5) and Troy Daniels (38.1) are all sharpshooters, while Alex Caruso (48.0) was unbelievably efficient from deep in a small sample size last year.
Davis is used to having defensive attention heaped onto him, and looks forward to taking advantage of opponents double-teaming him and leaving a shooter open.
“Now they have to be hesitant about that when you have shooters on the floor,” he said.
Day one of many. Let the AD Era begin. pic.twitter.com/6ZquMO8y8V— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 14, 2019
And for as difficult as it is to double-team when shooters surround the arc, it’s even harder when another superstar is there to take advantage of a scrambled defense.
Opponents that keyed in on LeBron last season will have difficulty repeating that formula. Sending help at James is a gamble when Davis is there to roll and unleash thunder at the rim. Similarly, doubling AD is near-impossible if LeBron is going to freight-train through the open lane.
“Both are guys that are going to command double-teams in any action that you put them in,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “They’re gonna draw a lot of attention. To have a second star to be the counterpunch to each other is really gonna have the two of them complement each other.”
All eyes on these two pic.twitter.com/vNvF0XzJdQ— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 14, 2019
Between them, Davis and James have 21 All-Star appearances. Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma has made no secret that he wants to join them on that stage this year.
It’s clear that AD sees such potential in the 23-year-old.
“Kuz is an unbelievable player,” Davis said. “A young player steadily growing, always working on his craft. Any time I’ve played against him, it was always great battles. He can shoot it, he can stretch the floor, he can put it down, he can finish, he’s got some post moves. So I’m very excited about playing alongside him.”
Speaking of All-Star nods, new center DeMarcus Cousins has four of them, including one as Davis’ teammate in New Orleans two years ago.
The behemoth duo bashed opponents — with each big man averaging more than 25 points and 11 rebounds — until Cousins’ season ended prematurely with a torn Achilles. After a one-year stint with Golden State, Cousins will now get his reunion with his fellow University of Kentucky product.
“I loved playing with DeMarcus,” Davis said. “Obviously we didn’t want it to end, but he had to move on and do what’s best for him and his family. Now we have the chance to reunite in a great situation.”
Cousins’ arrival, and the re-signing of JaVale McGee, take on additional importance considering Davis’ preference for playing power forward (the 4 position) instead of center (the 5).
“I like playing the 4,” Davis said. “I’m not even going to sugarcoat it: I like playing the 4. I don’t really like playing the 5.”
That being said, when Davis does shift up to the 5, he immediately becomes arguably the best center in the league. Two years ago, when Cousins was injured, the Pelicans swept through the first round of the playoffs thanks largely to small lineups that featured Davis at center.
Davis understands his value at that spot, and Vogel said that he will “situationally” deploy his star big when he needs to.
“But it if comes down to it, Coach,” Davis said, turning to Vogel, “and you need me to play the 5, I’ll play the 5.”
Center Stage pic.twitter.com/3bYvaiyDrZ— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 13, 2019
Having Cousins and McGee available to bear the brunt of the center work isn’t just beneficial to Davis on a night-to-night basis. In fact, from both Davis’ and the Lakers’ longterm perspectives, having him at power forward will help preserve his body for future seasons.
“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,’” Pelinka said. “He’s 26. We want a decade of dominance for him here.
“So we got to do what’s best for his body. And having him bang against the biggest centers in the West every night isn’t what’s best for his body or our team and franchise.”
At 26, Davis likely hasn’t even reached his prime — an astonishing thought considering he left New Orleans as already the franchise’s all-time leader in scoring and rebounds.
And after shedding the minutes/games restriction that the Pelicans put on him during the second half of last season, the Lakers’ new star is simply itching to show what he can do in Los Angeles.
“I’m playing,” Davis said. “I’m 26 years old and love the game of basketball. I’m ready to play.”
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