When Lakers star Anthony Davis is struggling, you don’t have to look very far to find social media critics who will call him “soft.” That’s nothing new, as it’s a reputation that has stuck to Davis since his New Orleans Pelicans days, and only really quiets down when he’s dominating.
But after people have spent the better part of his nine seasons accusing Davis of lacking toughness, he seems to realize he isn’t ever going to change the minds of such critics.
As a result, he told Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register that people can say what they want. He doesn’t care:
And Davis, what does he think about people who say he’s soft? He doesn’t think about them at all.
“I don’t give a (expletive) – it’s as simple as that,” he said. “If there are people who say that, most of them probably never were in the game. I really don’t care.”
Davis is right that the majority of people calling him soft probably never played professional basketball, but it’s more than that reality that’s left him comfortable not caring about said critics. He told Goon that he doesn’t play to disprove narratives. He plays to win championships:
“I have nothing to prove to anyone,” he said. “I don’t think I have anything to prove to myself; only being another champion. That’s really it. I want to be able to win multiple championships; this is another opportunity for me to do so.
“For our group, maybe you can add the challenge of being a seventh seed, but as far as trying to prove something to anyone else: I go out every day, compete, and let the chips fall where they may.”
This is the right mindset for Davis to take, and let’s be real, the narrative that he’s soft is pretty overblown anyway. Does Davis give us all a collective panic attack multiple times a week with his endless dives to the floor? Absolutely. Has he sustained bumps and bruises of varying degrees from doing so? Obviously.
But does he almost always play through those injuries? Yes.
The reputation about Davis getting hurt a ton has always been a bit out of hand. Last season he played in 62 of the Lakers’ 71 games, and while he only played in 56 the season prior, that was less for his health than it was because the Pelicans were so blatantly holding him out to preserve him for an eventual trade to L.A. that the NBA had to intervene and tell them to play Davis. He had played in 39 of the team’s first 46 games before they started trying to limit his time.
The two seasons prior to his trade demand, Davis played in 75 games apiece, tied for his career-highs, and has never played in fewer than 61 games other than this season — when he suffered the most serious injury of his career — and his trade request-marred one.
To stay on the court during those years, Davis has played through plenty of injuries, most notably playing through a torn labrum from 2013-2016, even while almost singlehandedly willing his team to the playoffs in 2015. Davis spent nearly the entire 2020 NBA Finals playing through a right heel contusion and still-undisclosed ankle injury that clearly limited him, but he knew his team needed him on the floor. And as Goon notes in his story, the Lakers had to stop Davis from trying to return too early from the Achilles and calf strains he was dealing with this season, injuries he had already tried to play through before re-aggravating them.
So why do people think Davis is soft? Maybe it’s that he settles for jumpers sometimes instead of driving. Maybe it’s because he has openly admitted he wants to avoid the pounding of playing center full-time. Maybe it’s that his combination of ridiculous size and constant dives to the floor like a benchwarmer desperate for minutes leave him open to bumps and bruises throughout the course of a season, even if he usually plays through them. It could be some combination of all of the above.
But Davis’ effort shouldn’t be held against him, and neither should his propensity to play through injuries. And maybe he would be more efficient on an everyday basis if he settled for fewer jumpers or embraced being the best center in the world full-time instead of in spot minutes, but he and the Lakers have clearly decided that both approaches are better to try and keep him healthy. Even if it costs him stats and effectiveness at times, Davis staying on the floor is far more important.
The good news is that Davis appears to not be listening to any of that outside noise. He shouldn’t. There is no benefit to him doing so. The Lakers are 1-for-1 on title chases with his current plan in place in Los Angeles, and until something is broken, why fix it? Davis is likely never going to please his loudest critics, so he’s better off doing what he and the team have decided is right. The people who do sit around on the internet calling him soft are always going to find something to hate on him for anyway.
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