For the past two seasons, Anthony Davis spent more time on the sidelines recovering from injuries than playing on the court. He missed 76 out of 154 games in the last two years, which not only significantly dented his reputation but also his performance on the court. Davis’ shooting struggles were rampant, and so was his lack of aggressiveness — particularly on the offensive end.
While AD’s regression on offense had a lot to do with his inability to stay on the floor, he also recently revealed that his injuries affected his performance just as much mentally. In a one-on-one interview with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on Monday’s Lakers Media Day, Davis said that his injuries messed with his head a lot, which influenced his rhythm, decision-making, and aggressiveness on the court.
McMenamin: When you were on the court last year, what do you think you could’ve done differently to impact winning?
Davis: “Be more aggressive. I started to get to my own head a lot last year, and I don’t think a lot of people know that. I mean, I don’t speak on it. But just knowing how much better I could’ve been.
“You try to go out there and perform at a high level and your best, but the injuries were bothering me, knowing that I couldn’t be here for my team and then watching the team struggle and then go out there again and it’s like ‘man, it’s only second game back,’ so it’s like work your way back into it but it’s like, ‘we don’t have time for you to work, we need you now’ and so that was the biggest thing. Coming out just being aggressive, so trying to come in a lot of times and you know, let the game come to me instead of like, ‘I’m going to take over this game,’ so I think that’s the biggest thing last year.”
True enough, Davis’ numbers depreciated considerably last season, averaging 23.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and an abysmal 18% 3-point shooting in 40 games, a downgrade from his numbers two years ago when he put up 26.1 points and shot 33% from the 3-point line in 62 games en route to a title. After shooting lights out in the Orlando Bubble when he was in top shape, AD has only made 39 out of his last 170 3-point attempts (22.9%) in the past two years.
Davis is well aware of how much his injuries have affected him and his team in the past two seasons, which is why his personal goal this season is not to win the MVP nor the DPOY award but to play all 82 games — something he hasn’t done since his tenure with the New Orleans Pelicans when he played 75 games in back-to-back seasons (2016-17 and 2017-18).
What’s the top personal goal for Anthony Davis?— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) September 28, 2022
“I wanna be on the court,” he said. “I want to play all 82.”
Davis, who received unending queries about his health during this year’s Media Day, knows that while most of his injuries were due to uncontrollable freak accidents, it doesn’t dismiss the fact that his durability played a huge role in the Lakers’ downfall for two years in a row.
That’s why once again, Davis’ health is arguably the top factor in how great Los Angeles can be and how far they go this season. As I wrote in my season preview on AD, his performance this year will answer a lot of legacy-defining questions, all of which will determine whether he’s capable of being the Lakers’ present and future.
The pressure is on AD to redeem himself and carry the Lakers this season, and that relies heavily on his physical and mental health. It sounds like he’s in a better place with the latter now, which will hopefully lead to an improvement in the former too.