Last December, the Lakers limped into media day, both physically and literally, barely two months removed from winning a title inside the bubble in Orlando. In fact, just 54 days passed between the Lakers capturing the franchise’s 17th title and their title defense unofficially began with media day.
If there was a small blessing in disguise of the Lakers being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round to cap off last season, it was that the team — and specifically its two stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis — had full offseasons to recover physically and mentally this summer.
The 117 days that passed between the Game 6 loss to Phoenix and Tuesday’s media day is over twice as long as the last offseason. While it was still a slightly abbreviated offseason based on the normal length following a first round exit, it was more than enough for James and Davis to right themselves heading into this upcoming season.
Following practice on Wednesday, Davis was asked if he can feel a difference in his between this training camp compared to last season’s.
“Oh yeah for sure,” Davis said. “Not just me. I think all of us. All of us feel great. We feel good. We’re flying up and down the floor, where we kind of took it slow last year because we had that short offseason. But me personally, I feel great, body feels great. I’m ready to go.”
No player was more adversely impacted by the shortened offseason last year than Davis. After a brilliant postseason in the bubble, Davis barely resembled that player to start the 2020-21 campaign. As he slowly worked his way back into playing shape last season, his body betrayed him, leading to effectively a lost season from the big man.
The lasting impact of the bubble, though, wasn’t just a physical toll but a mental one as well.
“Last year, coming off the bubble, it literally took everything away from you,” James said after practice on Thursday. “Any little bit of energy that you had, it was completely gone when we left there. So, to come back into the season with the quick start that we had, kind of life for the party was a little bit just, like it was kind of stale (and) rightfully so. Guys just didn’t get an opportunity to have a mental break. You could definitely feel the energy shift a lot more this season the first two practices compared to last.”
This offseason, James and Davis were able to step away both from the court and the spotlight. Davis’ behind-closed-doors work has led James to express excitement to play with a more motivated version of the big man.
“I got a little bit of time for just me but...the movie I was shooting two years ago dropped this year,” James said. “So I had to do a lot of stuff for that but I do a lot of other things but you know I did get an opportunity to get some me time, family time, some friends time, recalibrate, recenter myself. I took advantage of the time that we had off just away from the game while at the same time putting in more work and coming into camp in the best shape I can be to this point in the season.”
James and Davis have shown how different this preseason is compared to last December, the former showing off a new physique entering the season and the latter serving as a tone-setter through the first two days of practice.
The result of the added time off this summer is that the Lakers have two refocused, re-energized and refueled star players ready to prove last season was an aberration.