The Lakers won’t re-assemble for training camp until late September, but that hasn’t stopped Jared Dudley from firing off some of his preseason predictions. During his exit interview he not only essentially guaranteed that he’d return to the roster he won the 2020 title with, but he also had one other forecast for teammate Anthony Davis.
While talking about how LeBron James was the most consistent teammate he’s ever played with, Dudley took a pause to remind people that while LeBron is getting older, he also has a pretty big reinforcement waiting in the wings.
“We salute (LeBron). People say he’s slowing down, and it’s natural to slow down a little bit,” Dudley said. “That’s why you have Anthony Davis. That’s where he has to take the torch, and that’s where he will take the torch next year.”
And whether it’s next year or not, Dudley is right: At some point, LeBron James is going to take a step back. Maybe it won’t be next season, when he’ll turn 37 before the playoffs, but there will be a time when Davis has to lead this team on the court, and take full control of the locker room.
Is he ready for that? Who knows. His first tenure as a franchise centerpiece in New Orleans certainly wasn’t flawless, but it’s fair to imagine he’s learned a few lessons from James about leadership since they joined up, and he’s also likely matured as a player and person in the interim. His game still will pretty much always require a dominant floor general to unlock the full breadth of his skills, but this year, if there is anyone primed for a #WashedKing-style, revenge-on-the-haters-tour type of season, it’s AD, not LeBron.
Davis has heard the criticisms of his toughness, even before Charles Barkley called him “Street Clothes” on national television. He’s borne the brunt of the critiques since the Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. If there were going to be a set of circumstances to inspire a “f*** you” season from Davis to his doubters, you’d be hard pressed to personally design a better situation to bring that forth from him than the reality he and the Lakers currently exist in.
And this isn’t the first time Dudley has gone out of his way to publicly pump up or challenge Davis. He’s praised him for stepping up his leadership in the locker room multiple times, and while he’s said he doesn’t have any training tips for Davis, he did acknowledge that Davis needs make sure he’s physically available for the Lakers if this is truly going to be a torch-passing moment.
“Big summer (for him) taking care of his body, getting to the right point to where we need him for him to lead and get back to a First-Team, All-NBA player,” Dudley said.
He’s confident Davis can get there.
“That’s what we expect. That’s what he expects from himself,” Dudley said.