Anthony Davis doesn’t like playing center. That was true before he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and he wasted no time letting his new head coach, Frank Vogel, know that upon his arrival.
What that doesn’t mean, though, is that he’s unwilling to play center, and Friday night’s game against the Utah Jazz was a perfect example of that.
To start the the second half, Davis played center in a lineup with Alex Caruso, Avery Bradley, Danny Green and LeBron James. In the eight minutes that lineup together, they posted an offensive rating of 118.8, a defensive rating of 82.4, and a 62.5 percent true shooting percentage. They also posted the highest net rating (+36.4) of any lineup Frank Vogel has played more than five minutes this season.
After the game, Vogel said the decision to move Davis to center came after a conversation he had with Davis at halftime, and Davis was game.
“We were shooting 34 percent offensively and Rudy is a problem for any offense going against their defense. If you have another center that’s rolling to the basket, he can kind of play center field and clog things up. So, Anthony and I talked about it, he was all for it and wanted to do it,” Vogel said.
Davis said it wasn’t a hard sell with the way the way the offense was flowing in the first half.
”On that last maybe three minutes in that second quarter we had me at the five and we were just running pick and rolls, and we had Rudy kind of disoriented in where he was going and LeBron was getting downhill and I was rolling to the basket, so it was a tough cover for Utah and we were finding guys on the weakside as well, so we thought it would be more effective with me at the five playing that way to be able to win this game. We did it in the third quarter to create a lead and were able to get the win,” Davis said.
Going forward, Davis said he’s willing to play center as long as there’s a reason for it.
”If it makes sense then obviously I don’t mind doing it,” Davis said. “And it made sense tonight. Coach is very smart. We’re going to pick and choose when he wants me to play the five, and it may not be all game. It was just the second half tonight, or really just the third quarter tonight and we were able to accomplish some great things out of it. So any time we can do that and it helps the team then I’m all for it.”
Luckily for Davis, it sounds like he and Vogel are on the same page, with Vogel saying the Lakers still plan on using Davis primarily at the power forward position.
“It’s something that’s going to be really good for us throughout the year, it’s just something we don’t want to go to full-time because obviously we want to keep Anthony fresh for the playoffs, but it’s always in our back pocket —something we can go to in certain matchups but especially against elite rim protectors like Rudy,” Vogel said.
Davis’s impact at center didn’t impact his individual stats much, as he only scored two points during that stretch, but it opened lanes for his teammates like LeBron James, who scored three of his four field baskets in the third quarter with Davis at center. James noted that having Davis at center opens things up for the guards, too.
It’s a small sample size, but the Lakers seem to be at their best when Davis is at center. While that might not mean anything in the regular season — when he’ll spend most of his time at the 4 — it could mean everything for them in the postseason.
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