After the Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets, Anthony Davis — or someone in his camp — leaked that he would be more than willing to play center against Houston. As the series has gone along, he’s done that, culminating in him starting at the position on Thursday, with the Lakers fully embracing their new, small(er) ball identity.
Davis’ hesitancy to play the 5 has been a season-long storyline, but after the Lakers’ 110-100 win, Davis downplayed how serious of a concern it is for him at this point.
“It’s the playoffs man, I don’t really care where I play to be honest,” Davis told reporters on Zoom.
The Lakers have taken advantage of that so far. After playing just 40% of his minutes at center during the regular season — his lowest time there in the last five seasons — Davis has been more than happy to slot up a spot in the lineup in the postseason, playing 59% of his time there since the playoffs began, according to Basketball-Reference.
Davis says part of that is that even when he’s playing “center” in this series against the Lilliputian Rockets, he’s not really playing center the way he would be in the regular season, when he wants to save the toll on his body.
“They don’t really have no five,” Davis said. “It’s a long season, but playoffs, I just go out there and play no matter where coach puts me on the floor. I’m going to fight regardless.”
Davis has certainly done that, battling on the glass to make sure the Lakers end possessions, rotating like a madman on defense, and canning shots from mid-range to help the Lakers take a 3-1 lead in their second-round series.
His versatility to toggle between roles — and have success in all of them — is a big part of why Lakers head coach Frank Vogel feels he’s so valuable.
“Obviously the less you have to double in this league, the better your defense is going to be. The more you can switch and have flexibility, the better your defense is going to be. The more you have rim protection, the better your defense is going to be, and Anthony brings all of those to the table,” Vogel said.
“In my mind he’s the Defensive Player of the Year, and a huge reason for our success this season,” Vogel continued. “You’ve seen his impact in this series with what he’s able to do guarding multiple, highly talented offensive players.”
For Davis, who is one game away from the first appearance in the Western Conference Finals of his career, the reason for his willingness to step up now is simple.
“I want to win,” Davis said. “The guys have enough confidence in me, coach has enough confidence in me, and I have enough confidence in myself to go out there and compete and do what I do to help the team win.”