Anthony Davis was in high spirits following the Lakers’ victory over the Nets the other day. He sported a huge grin throughout his presser, and not simply because he led the beleaguered purple and gold to their first victory in the last six matches. More importantly, it was due to his dominance, and how he exerted it; in posting 37 points (on 25 shots) and 18 rebounds (a record 10 off the offensive glass), he did most of his damage in the third and fourth quarters of the set-to. He had previously been ignored, even forgotten, in the second halves of contests, including that against the supposedly lowly Kings over the weekend.
That Davis’ touches — or, to be more precise, lack thereof — had hitherto been speculated on in hoops circles reflected the degree to which it affected play. It became a sore subject to the point where he avoided interviews. And he had reason to be affected. Given all the setbacks, and the fact that top dog LeBron James, at 37 and with 20 years’ worth of mileage on the odometer, is in the midst of an alarming shooting slump, he should have been tagged as the focal point of the Lakers’ attack. Instead, he proved to be an afterthought, and, per head coach Darvin Ham, there was no one to blame but him.
Whether Davis bears the brunt of criticism for alleged passivity is subject to debate. After all, the Lakers’ brain trust is theoretically charged with placing their best players in the best position to do damage. Arguing that the fix “starts [with] just him demanding the ball” won’t cut it. In any case, the conscious effort to look for him time and again on offense, coupled with his refusal to settle for midrange shots, resulted in his extremely efficient numbers. “I was trying to get to the paint and score inside, knowing that they had limited shot-blocking,” he noted. And to argue that he met his objective would be to understate the obvious; he took 23 of his 25 field-goal attempts in the shaded lane.
To be sure, the Lakers remain systemically infirm, and one strong showing does not cure their ills. The triumph notwithstanding, they’re three and 10 and a mere game out of last place in the National Basketball Association. They need James, sidelined due to a left adductor strain, back in action, and they should compel Davis to keep pushing himself if they want their campaign to gain a semblance of respectability. Else, they’ll be an even bigger disappointment this season than last, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.