Lakers teammates gush over Anthony Davis as he continues to reinvigorate team’s defense on and off the floor

Ryan Ward
6 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the best all-around team in the NBA right now.

Not only was the storied franchise able to improve the squad after losing six veterans in free agency and trades, but the squad is already starting to come together with nine wins in its first 12 games of the 2020-21 campaign.

However, the team’s success didn’t come without some friction recently when superstar Anthony Davis called out his teammates for their poor play defensively. Davis was livid losing to the San Antonio Spurs last week and didn’t hold anything back in his postgame presser.

“We didn’t play any defense,” Davis said. “Our defense was s— tonight. We didn’t play one lick of defense and them guys did whatever they wanted.”

Although it was uncertain how his teammates would react to his comments, the Lakers turned things around quickly as they played with a newfound intensity on both ends of the floor for the next three games.

The Chicago Bulls gave the defending champions a run for their money resulting in an outcome that could’ve easily gone either way. Los Angeles was able to pull out the two-point win over Zach LaVine and company at Staples Center, with Davis sidelined with an adductor strain.

Marc Gasol was able to help shoulder the load defensively in the paint against the visiting Bulls, recording four blocks in the 19 minutes he was on the floor for the Lakers. Despite securing the bounce-back win on their home floor, it wasn’t until Davis returned against the Rockets that the defense was truly invigorated.

This two-game series against James Harden’s squad in Houston was exactly what was needed to spark this team.

“We heard what our captain A.D. said after the San Antonio game,” LeBron James said. “From there on, we’ve been locked in.”

Along with Christian Wood poking the bear by saying he’d circled matchups with Davis on his calendar this season, Davis was a man possessed in the first of two games in Houston.

The Defensive Player of the Year runner-up had one of his best games of the season, scoring a game-high 27 points to go along with three blocks. He missed only three shots in his 27-point effort, with Houston having no answer for the perennial All-Star.

As if Davis’ performance wasn’t impressive enough, the Lakers as a team were flying all over the floor on both ends leading to 13 steals and eight blocks as a squad.

That effort and energy continued on Tuesday night against the Rockets, as Harden and company didn’t stand a chance against this motivated team led by Davis and James.

After recording a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, Kyle Kuzma talked about what’s changed and chalked it up to improved communication.

“Everybody is communicating,” Kuzma said. “That’s the biggest thing to have a really good defensive team like we do and we’re still getting better. It’s all about communication, especially for us having no guys and making sure everybody is in the right spot.

“It’s all new to everybody still. We have our nights where we have our great defensive performances, but when we’re in our film rooms, we definitely have our miscues and mistakes. It’s all apart of it. Guys are still learning our terminologies and how our schemes are.

“We’ve got a great athletic team. Everybody has bought into it. It’s that championship pedigree that everybody is kind of falling in line to and understanding that defense is going to win us games even when we’re not shooting it well or scoring well.”

A much calmer and content Davis spoke to the media after the Lakers crushed the Rockets for a second straight game and assessed how his team is starting to come together on the defensive end of the basketball floor.

“We were very on point defensively tonight and the other night,” Davis said. “We’re starting to find ourselves defensively, find out the team we want to be. A team that plays harder than the other team, a team that plays scrappy and physical.”

The Lakers will continue their road trip on Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Davis is ready to keep the ball rolling as this revamped squad continues its quest for an 18th NBA title.

“We’ve got to keep this going,” Davis said. “Keep being a defensive-minded-first team and then the rest will come easy for us.”

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Ryan is a veteran sportswriter who has covered the NBA and NFL for nearly a decade. Along with numerous exclusive interviews with professional athletes, Ryan has been credentialed by the Los Angeles Lakers since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWardLA.