In some ways, it’s hard to imagine the man in very clear discomfort with a back injury on Sunday who was waving off a substitution is the same person who has been the constant butt of jokes for not being available to his team. Anthony Davis won’t rewrite the narratives about his injury woes in this early stretch of games to open the season, but it doesn’t erase the impact he’s had on the Lakers despite battling injury.
Against the Nuggets, Davis had his best performance of the season with 23 points and 15 rebounds while dealing with an ailing back and matched up with the reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic. AD’s two-way play has been everything the Lakers hoped and expected it would be so far this season, leading to some large praise from head coach Darvin Ham.
“Just his determination to be present on both sides of the ball and be effective on both sides of the ball and make an impact on both sides of the ball,” Ham said after practice on Tuesday. “We mentioned it earlier about him grimacing during the game and I looked at him and gestured ‘You need a break?’ He went ‘nah’ and waved me off. And he wants to dispel that myth that he’s never available. He’s had some unfortunate injuries over the last couple years, but I can tell you right now he’s been nothing short of monstrous since I’ve shown up.
“He’s determined to be there for us this year. Highly competitive. Dealing with a lot of back pain but he’s not in a space where he can injure himself. The injury is what it is. So, just have to manage it and keep him as fresh as possible so he can go out and compete.”
So far this season, Davis is averaging 23.8 points per game, his highest mark in the season since the 2019-20 campaign. His 10.6 rebounds per game are the most in his Lakers career, as is his 53.3% field goal percentage. His 3-pointer is far, far away from coming around as he’s made two of his 11 attempts.
But more important than any stat offensively has been how he has anchored the Lakers defensively. Heading into Wednesday’s contest against the Pelicans, the Lakers rank second in the league in defensive rating at 104.7, trailing only the Bucks. AD plays a huge role in that as effectively the only center playing well on the roster, with all due respect to Damian Jones.
He’s been everything the Lakers need him to be this year. The hope now is that his injury is one that he can continue to play through and be managed by AD. If that’s the case, AD could be in store for perhaps his best season in LA yet.