Anthony Davis is probably going to miss (at least) the next game the Lakers play, according to the latest reports. And given that he’s dealing with an Achilles injury, the team could opt to hold him out for longer just to play it safe amidst the shortest turnaround any team has ever gone through.
It’s hard to find a lot of silver linings in an update like that — beyond the Lakers catching this early — but one small piece of “good” news may be that if Davis is going to miss any chunks of time, he appears to be more prepared to contribute from the bench and in the film room than he was before.
Lakers veteran Jared Dudley told Jovan Buha of The Athletic last week (before this news came out) that Davis has become more of a vocal leader for the Lakers than he was previously. It’s a quality that could serve Davis well if he does end up sitting out:
“He’s a lot more vocal, a lot more demanding of his teammates to play at a certain level,” Dudley told The Athletic. “That’s one thing I’ve definitely seen. Calling stuff out. I saw him breaking down a film clip with Montrezl, pulling off stuff he’s doing wrong defensively, trying to help him and ways to prop him up.
“I didn’t see that the year before.”
We’ve all seen that on display early in the season, whether we’re a member of the locker room or not. Last month, Davis blasted his teammates for their “shit” defense after a frustrating loss to the Spurs. When the team turned it around over the next few games, head coach Frank Vogel praised Davis for his outburst, and Davis’ co-star, LeBron James, credited his leadership for helping the team figure things out.
“He can voice any opinion that he would like, any fact that he would like, for our ball club because one thing about him is when he says it, he’s going to say it to himself as well,” James said then. “AD can say whatever he wants because it’s all for the betterment of our team and we respond to that.”
“I only speak the truth,” Davis explained at the time. “I’m going to say what I feel if I know it’s going to help the team, and it was the truth. It’s not like I was fabricating it. It was the truth. We were really bad defensively, and have been bad defensively.”
The Lakers have the best defense in the league on the season, holding teams to 104.8 points per 100 possessions, but prior to that night they were allowing 105.2 (against worse competition). Since, they’ve been holding teams to 104.5, a tad better than their already season-best mark, and they’ve been doing so while playing against better teams to boot. So we do have some numerical evidence that Davis’ leadership has made a difference in at least one instance this season.
That means a lot more than it would have a few days ago now that it appears Davis may miss some time. His health should obviously be his (and the team’s) top priority, but if he does miss some games, the Lakers will obviously miss his presence on the floor on both ends. And while that latter part is obvious, at least this year Davis appears more sure of his voice and standing in the locker room now that he’s served as a championship centerpiece, and can have more value as a coach from the bench than he might have previously. If his sharp defensive instincts can still be brought to bear in the film room and in shouting things out to his teammates from the sidelines, at least the Lakers will still have use of his prodigious basketball brain while his body recovers.