Editor’s Note: For the second year in a row, the Silver Screen and Roll staff is counting down the most interesting Lakers heading into next season. We will be going through all 20 training camp spots before the season begins, and today we conclude with No. 1, Anthony Davis.
LeBron James has helped usher in a new era of unprecedented player empowerment throughout the NBA. It’s been a fascinating process that has done more good than bad, but it also hasn’t occurred without some bumps in the road. Just ask anyone at all associated with Anthony Davis’ year-long attempt to get to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Well, he’s here now, and it’s time to produce.
It’s almost fitting that Davis would be joined by Dwight Howard on the Lakers. Remember, Howard wanted out of Orlando (though not specifically to L.A.) via trade, finally got his request, but didn’t exactly live up to his billing after the Lakers dealt for him and has been basically reeling ever since.
Howard should serve as a cautionary tale to Davis. Howard’s reputation took a hit not just because the Dwightmare was such a nauseating experience, but because he stopped producing at a level that made the headache worth it.
The circus surrounding James was criticized by Kevin Durant, and it’s fair to wonder whether said circus played a role in Kawhi Leonard opting sign the Clippers, or had anything to do with the level at which James played at last season not living up to the drama that seems to follow him around.
Demanding superstars isn’t anything close to a new phenomenon, either, mind you. Hell, athletes wanting to be in control of their careers is perfectly fine. It’s natural and absolutely warranted that superstars should be able to find the situation that fits them best, just as any other leader of their industry would. Teams, teammates and fans are absolutely willing to deal with the demands of superstars so long as those stars live up to that billing.
Davis wants to play the center only in big spots? Alright. He wants his choice of teammates? Not at all out of the ordinary. But he’d better produce.
(Semi-related: Anthony, you’re reportedly a big part of why Rajon Rondo is on this team. You’d better win multiple f---ing MVPs)
Davis’ attempt to become a Laker played a central role in derailing last season. Now that he is one, expectations should be through the roof.
Fortunately for everyone, Davis is more than talented enough to live up to even the loftiest expectations.
Remember, it was Davis’ Pelicans who swept the Portland Trail Blazers out of the playoffs just two years ago, capped off by his 47-point, 10-rebound performance in the deciding game. That series vaulted him into the discussion of best players in the NBA at the time — a thoroughly warranted proclamation.
He’s fallen out of that conversation since that series, thanks mostly to how things played out in New Orleans last season, but Davis turns 27 in March, is entering his prime and will play alongside far and away the best player he’s ever had as a teammates. Oh and by the way, both Davis and James are going to be better rested than they’ve ever been.
There’s really no reason Davis shouldn’t reclaim a place in the discussion of the absolute best players in the NBA. If he does, and James enjoys a bounce-back season of his own, the Lakers will spend the year firmly entrenched among the league’s title contenders. The title picture is wide open, too, as if everything surrounding watching Davis and James potentially be the league’s best duo isn’t already fascinating enough.
But just ask Howard about what happens if you fall short of expectations after flexing your superstar muscle. James has been the NBA’s puppeteer for years now and apparently has his Klutch heir apparent attempting to do the same in Davis. But with that empowerment comes expectations. Davis got his way. Now it’s time to make the headache it took to make that happen worth it.
The complete countdown:
20. Aric Holman (Cut after the list started)