If LeBron James wasn’t somehow still winning his war against Father Time — current injury notwithstanding — it might be less of a hot take to say that Anthony Davis is the Lakers’ most important player. But the Lakers are at their best when 28-year-old, do-everything big man is their point of attack on both ends of the floor, because when Davis is in rhythm, it’s virtually impossible to stop a 6’10 athlete who rim protects with the best centers out there and moves like a guard on the other end.
At some point soon, unless he decides to take his talents elsewhere when the 36-year-old James leaves or retires, Davis will become the unquestioned face of the Lakers. But his teammates — especially veterans Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo — are already building him up internally as the Lakers’ leader, and have encouraged him to make the most of James’ current absence by taking on a more vocal role.
“Melo is in my ear a lot, just about leading the team and controlling the team. Especially with [LeBron] out,” Davis said on Monday. “It’s my job to make sure that I take command of the team. And even when LB is playing, we had a little player meeting early in the season, or before the season, and that was one of the things the guys told me, was just ‘make sure (you) stay in control of the team and just put guys where they need to be, and do it with leadership.’”
By his own admission, Davis is not a naturally outspoken leader. That job comes a lot more easily to James, especially at this point in his career. Because while Davis was as important as any player on the court during the team’s 2020 title run, there was no question who the team’s leader was. However, Rondo has been encouraging Davis to become more of a leader since their first stint as teammates in New Orleans. While Davis chose to leave and help the Pelicans jumpstart a rebuild instead, Rondo is still in his ear about that subject today.
“I had to grow into [leadership], for sure, but I’ve been comfortable with that the past three, four, five years,” Davis said. “And it first happened when I was in New Orleans with [Rondo]. He was the first one to kind of say ‘OK, this is the time where you lead us.’ To wins, to the playoffs, to whatever. And I [don’t] have to do as much [here] because Bron, this is what he do. So I try to lead in other ways.
“But now that he’s out, we lose his voice,” Davis continued. “Now it’s my time to fill that in.”
Davis no doubt earned even more respect from his teammates on Monday when — while battling a non-COVID-19 stomach virus that was causing him to throw up uncontrollably just days before — he finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 5 blocks while playing 44 minutes in the Lakers’ overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Anthony Davis tonight became the second player since 2001 to achieve a 32-point, 12-rebound, 4-assist, 3-steal, 5-block game.— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) November 9, 2021
Karl Anthony-Towns was the other in 2018.
Hopefully Davis can continue recovering from his illness and keep growing into his leadership role, because the Lakers will need every bit of that in their nationally televised matchup against the white-hot Miami Heat on ESPN on Wednesday.