In playing the best basketball of his career and helping lead the Lakers to a title, Anthony Davis raised the bar of expectation for his play to potentially unreachable levels. Inside the bubble, Davis pieced together a stretch of basketball unparalleled in his career both in terms of the length in which he played at the level and just how dominant he was on both ends of the court.
Much of the time since the bubble ended in October of 2020 has been Davis striving to get back to that level. Injuries have largely prohibited him from doing so, aside from the beginning of this season. After a healthy offseason and training camp, Davis performed at a high level to start the year, but not in the same manner that he did inside the bubble, which led to frustrations from fans.
While there is no net positive of an injury, it did allow Davis a chance to step back and re-assess things. After a quiet return against Brooklyn, Davis has averaged 29.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks on 57.8% shooting while looking every bit the dominant player he was in the bubble over the last five games.
Following the team’s comeback win over the Knicks on Sunday, a game in which Davis recorded 28 points and 17 rebounds, he spoke about looking in the mirror while sidelined.
“Obviously, I knew – even though the numbers were kind of there – I didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t helping the team as much as I could have to win basketball games earlier in the year,” Davis said. “I take ownership of that. And when the knee injury happened, I was able to step away from the game and just evaluate myself. Not looking at other guys and what they could be doing but looking myself in the mirror and seeing how I could be better.
“I just took that upon myself to have that mindset of being that AD that wanted to bring here, playing with energy, playing with effort, offensive rebound, defensive rebound, energy on the defensive end. That’s what kind of what I took upon myself to do since the return. No matter who we’re playing, I have to be that for our team and that’s what I’ve been as of late. You see our games have been different, knowing that they feed off my, especially on the defensive end, energy, effort. So, I try to bring that every game for our guys and, hopefully, each night can result in a win.”
Even if Davis’ play of late has still only resulted in two wins for the Lakers, it’s certainly been defeats in spite of his performance. Particularly in the loss to the Clippers in which he had 30 points and 17 rebounds, it was Davis that largely kept the team in the game and it was his shot at the buzzer that nearly won the game.
What Davis’ recent stretch of games does also indicates is a sense of urgency that also hasn’t always been there for the Lakers this season. And it’s a needed urgency as, even after Saturday’s win, the Lakers are the ninth seed in the Western Conference and 3.5 games from even getting out of the play-in games.
If Davis can continue this stretch of games throughout the season and James can return to something close to the MVP level he was at prior to his recent knee injury, that pair alone may be enough to drag the Lakers out of the play-in game back into the playoff seedings.
Regardless of what ramifications his play may have, it’s overall encouraging to see Davis back to this level of play of late after, especially almost immediately after an injury.