Regardless of how you feel about LeBron James as a basketball player, there is no denying the impact he has had on the NBA. Even off the court, James is always thinking multiple moves ahead of his opponents. When James’ 13-year playoff streak was broken last season during his first campaign with the Lakers, it surprised no one to learn that the King had concocted a new plan.
That plan was appeasing Anthony Davis’ trade request by acquiring the seven-time All-Star from the New Orleans Pelicans.
With “The Brow” donning purple and gold, James took on a new challenge in his 17th season, making the transition to being the Lakers’ primary point guard. James passed this new test with flying colors, as he sits poised to capture his first assist title, while also leading the Lakers to the top record in the Western Conference. When the postseason begins, the Lakers can rest assured that James will continue to deliver his Hall of Fame-level contributions on a nightly basis. Still, it will be Davis, who will ultimately determine their fate.
Davis didn’t get quite the love that LeBron got on Thursday, but he led the Lakers with 34 points in their 103-101 win. The Lakers entered the resumed season in Orlando as the top-ranked team in the Western Conference and are now closing in on the Bucks for the best overall record in the league.
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The LA Clippers will not be at full strength for Thursday’s official bubble opener, but their opponents might not be either.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told the media on Tuesday that there is “some concern” that star big man Anthony Davis might not play against the Clippers, per Brad Turner of the LA Times. Davis was poked in the eye during Saturday’s scrimmage and is still experiencing discomfort.
The seven-time All-Star missed Tuesday’s practice session and was spotted on the sidelines wearing a pair of sunglasses.
Anthony Davis didn’t practice today. He’s still dealing with his eye injury from Saturday. Here he is near the end of practice. pic.twitter.com/eECYA4aK3L
In addition to the uncertainty over Davis, the Lakers will be without guard Rajon Rondo, who continues to recover from a broken thumb. The Clippers, meanwhile, will not have Lou Williams for Thursday’s game, who is under mandatory ten-day quarantine because of bizarre circumstances. Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley are also uncertain after recently departing the bubble for excused absences, meaning that Thursday’s opener may not have quite the expected star power on both sides.
Like almost all other businesses across the country, NBA teams are dealing with some unexpected financial issues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. That could have a direct impact on free agency, and some have wondered if the Los Angeles Lakers will have a difficult time bringing back Anthony Davis.
Apparently that is not a major concern. In a lengthy piece examining what teams are doing to offset the losses from not having fans at games and playing a shorter season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst cited sources who say the Lakers should have no issue re-signing Davis.
Davis has a $28 million player option for the 2020-21 season, and he will almost certainly decline it. He will then be eligible to sign a five-year deal with the Lakers that is worth roughly $200 million. While all teams stand to lose a significant amount of revenue, Windhorst notes that the Lakers have a $200 million television deal and could raise $300 million in a season without selling a single ticket.
Before the pandemic, there was speculation that Davis could sign a 1-and-1 deal with the Lakers, which would allow him to opt out again and be eligible for — in theory — an even bigger max extension following the 2021-22 season. However, he may be more likely to sign a long-term contract now with so much financial uncertainty surrounding the league.
Anthony Davis won’t be wearing a social justice message on the back of his jersey when the NBA restarts, though he admitted he thought long and hard about it.
Davis cited the importance of his last name, and how he represents it every time he plays, as being key to his decision.
Anthony Davis on not wearing a social justice phrase on his jersey: "I think the name 'Davis' is something I try to represent every time I step on the floor with my family. I was torn between the two." AD added "my last name is very important to me."
Playing Anthony Davis at the 5 has unlocked a lot of lineup versatility for the Los Angeles Lakers, but head coach Frank Vogel still does not want to do it any more than he has to.
Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Vogel said that he is hoping not to play Davis at center any more than the team was doing previously, per Harrison Faigen of SB Nation. Vogel also said that there was no change with Dwight Howard’s status for Orlando and added that, if Howard sits out, the Lakers may give Devontae Cacok, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Markieff Morris, or even Kyle Kuzma more minutes at the 5.
Davis, who was averaging 26.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game this season, had seen about 38 percent of his minutes at center, per Basketball Reference. That lineup configuration had been able to juice the Lakers with small-ball floor-spacing and switchability at every position. But limiting Davis’ time at the 5 prevents the unnecessary wear-and-tear that comes from constantly banging with opposing seven-footers, which is especially important for a player like Davis who is historically prone to injury.