Anthony Davis was not happy with the way he was playing last week. Or, as the Lakers star memorably put it, “I think I suck right now.” His head coach didn’t agree with Davis’ assessment of his recent performances, but he also understood that Davis’ almost impossibly high bar for himself is part of what makes him great.
“He’s not in rhythm like he’s used to, but I think he’s still doing a lot of winning things. We’re winning games and playing at a high level, and he’s been a big part of that on both sides of the ball,” Vogel said before the Lakers beat the Chicago Bulls over the weekend. “He’s got a high bar set for himself, and he’s going to be hard on himself when he falls short of that. That’s part of what makes him great, but I’m really not concerned about Anthony Davis.”
Almost as if to prove Vogel’s point, Davis went out an hour or so later and dropped 26 points in the first half alone against his hometown team — ending a five-game streak in which he scored less than 20 points in each game — and finished the night with 37 points. It was only the third game this season that Davis took 20 or more shots, something that Vogel acknowledged was part of the plan.
“We want to make sure we’re playing through him as much as possible (now). We’ve got a lot of new guys on this team, so there have been times early in the season where myself and even AD have been trying to get other guys comfortable,” Vogel said. “We knew this week, the beginning of this trip was a time to have him start being more assertive, and he didn’t have a great night against Milwaukee, but the mindset was there. Tonight, obviously he was dominant with how he was playing.
“Like I said (pregame), it’s not something we’re worried about over the course of a long season, and he was great tonight.”
So far, the Lakers’ plan has come to fruition. Davis obviously didn’t play the best game of his career to start the road trip against the Bucks in Milwaukee, but over two games so far he has certainly been more involved with the offense.
Prior to the Lakers hitting the road for seven games, 25.1% of the Lakers’ possessions while Davis was on the floor were ending with him shooting, assisting a teammate, turning the ball over, or drawing a foul. That was still the second-highest rate on the team, but since they left Los Angeles, Davis has used 30.8% of said possessions for the Lakers, an over 5% increase that is basically equivalent to the difference in his season-long usage and that of Montrezl Harrell’s.
So yes, it was a big step up.
Will Davis continue at this level, and was it really all just part of a slow ramp-up process the team planned as they integrate new pieces? That would certainly explain some of why Davis has at times looked a bit disengaged or unsure of where he best fits in for the team so far, and last year his usage rate was 28.4%, so we know he is capable of doing more than he is.
Will this road trip be the start of that? We’ll see, but it’s worth monitoring as a possible turning point for him as the season continues.