The Los Angeles Lakers’ rough start on the court last season may have been even rougher for owner Jeanie Buss, who said she received death threats before the campaign eventually turned around.
“There’s an argument to be made that he [Anthony Davis] was the best player in the NBA when he was playing.”
Do you agree?
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 20, 2023
“Last season started off really tough,” Buss said. “I was like, ‘I’m not gonna survive this. This is gonna be really rough.’
“I was getting death threats. And then the team, something just clicked. And Anthony Davis being healthy — there’s an argument to be made that he was the best player in the NBA when he was playing.”
The Lakers opened the 2022-23 campaign with a 3-10 record as they adjusted in part to bringing Russell Westbrook off the bench after the veteran guard started all 78 of the games he played in the season before, when L.A. did not make the playoffs.
The troubles with Westbrook last season started almost immediately, highlighted by him being benched in the fifth game of the season after taking a questionable shot in an eventual loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Lakers in February eventually moved on, trading him to the Utah Jazz in a three-team deal that brought D’Angelo Russell back to Los Angeles. The 34-year-old wound up playing in 52 of the Lakers’ first 55 games, making three starts and averaging 15.9 points, 7.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per contest. He never did play for the Jazz and finished the season with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he re-signed this offseason.
The Lakers eventually completed the long climb to a .500 record, reaching 37-37 on March 24. From there, they won six of their final eight regular season games and qualified for the play-in round of the postseason.
They emerged from there with a victory and ultimately advanced to the 2023 Western Conference Finals with series wins against the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors before being swept by the eventual NBA champion Denver Nuggets.
Davis was a critical player down the stretch and into the playoffs for the Lakers, leading the team in either scoring or rebounding in each of the final 12 regular season games and 18 of the last 19.
For the season, he averaged 25.9 points and 12.5 rebounds per game in 56 appearances. His rebounding average would have led the NBA had he played in the required 58 games to qualify.
Westbrook faced the Lakers once late last season with the Clippers as the home team, so it will be interesting to see the interplay between him and Lakers fans when they are the home side at Crypto.com Arena on Nov. 1.