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Anthony Davis says trade speculation and critics never bothered him

The season started with criticism and trade rumors swirling around Anthony Davis, but the Lakers star says he never listened to any of it.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Washington Wizards Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

There has long been a trope on the various basketball-related corners of social media of accounts sending out perennial reminders about how “people forget (player x) was a BUCKET,” usually followed by a highlight reel of a player no one forgot was good and/or a couple of snort emojis. It’s something this blogger has poked fun at in the past, but even I am willing to potentially cross over into self-parody with the following statement, given the way the NBA internet writ large has talked about Anthony Davis for much of the year and a half or so:

People actually forgot Anthony Davis was a BUCKET.

And well, if that actually was the case and is not just my own strawman I made up for the purposes of this intro, he’s served up a reminder of his own personal scoring prowess and all-around talents over the weekend. The eight-time All-Star scored 99 points over the Lakers’ two games on Friday and Sunday, continuing a recent run of strong play that has come about through both his embrace of playing center and commitment to getting to the rim, among other factors.

It all led to him being recognized as Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, and to continue down the path of cliches from above, the easy narrative to draw would be that Davis is having a revenge season. That he’s heard “haters” like Charles Barkley call him street clothes, or Bill Simmons suggest the Lakers blow it up and trade him. But that’s not the case, according to Davis himself, who told Melissa Rohlin of Fox Sports in an exclusive interview that critiques like those two and more never meant anything to him:

All of that negativity was nothing but noise to Davis, who furrowed his famous unibrow dismissively when asked what impact those rumblings had on him.

“Nothing,” Davis told FOX Sports. “People who talk who don’t know the game — fans, whoever it is. My job is to go play basketball. I know what I’m capable of doing.

“There were two injuries I couldn’t control. Somebody getting pushed into my knee or falling into my knee, and landed on someone’s foot. I know I’m comfortable with my game. I know the things I’m able to do on the basketball court. And I let my game speak for itself. Everyone who’s talking can do whatever they have to do.”

His game has certainly done that in recent weeks, and while the timing of his resurgence starting right around the time that Simmons started a week-long media cycle about whether or not the Lakers should trade him makes his claim slightly dubious, he is certainly correct that a whole lot of the noise around him was out of his control. He can’t stop injuries, or the fact that there are people who don’t know the game who love to criticize him. It’s also hilarious that he is, in essence, responding to critics like Charles Barkley with “you don’t know ball,” but hey, anyone who has watched the latter’s predictions over the years might find it hard to argue at times.

But it wasn’t just trade rumors, internet personalities or TV pundits who devalued Davis. His recent resurgence has left his standing around the NBA a far cry away from where he was seen in the league’s hierarchy when ESPN ranked him as the 20th-best player in the NBA heading into the season. At this point, naming 19 players playing better than him would be a struggle. It might be tough to name five.

Still, Davis told Rohlin he never let any of that stuff bother him:

When asked if he felt underrated, Davis stressed that he doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone — except himself.

“No,” Davis said. “I feel like I am where I’m supposed to be. I don’t get into the ratings or rankings. That’s not my job. I don’t care about any of that. It’s my job to help this team get wins and compete for championships. And we’re on track to having a complete team and putting everything together to be able to compete.”

The whole story is worth a read for Lakers fans, and it is another reminder that for as cliche as it all is, all of the talk about roster construction, player rankings and more — at this site included — doesn’t really matter unless a player is healthy. That’s boring, and maybe it sounds like an “excuse” for how poorly Davis has played at times throughout the last two seasons, but it’s also just reality. Davis is healthy now, and according to both his own coach and NBA insider Brian Windhorst during the most recent episode of “The Hoop Collective” podcast, it’s played a big part in how good he looks.

Windhorst: “I’ve talked to some folks around the team, I’ve talked to some folks around AD (and) his back was bothering him earlier in the season and it’s better now... He’s healthy, but only he knows why all of a sudden he’s being just vicious like the peak Anthony Davis.”

And if Davis maintains this level of play, one thing is certain: The criticism he says he doens’t care about is going to quiet, whether that matters to him or not. If he keeps this up, in fact, it may even get replaced by MVP buzz.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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