‘He Keeps Saying He’s Tired’: Lakers Still Sorting Out Star’s Role

Lakers stars Russell Westbrook (left) and Anthony Davis.

Getty Lakers stars Russell Westbrook (left) and Anthony Davis.

One of the nifty aspects of regional NBA coverage of the Lakers is the Backstage show that broadcaster Spectrum Sportsnet puts out each year, and this year is no different. But there is one clip from the most recent episode of the show that has caught some attention: It seems star big man Anthony Davis is getting tired playing in long stretches.

That comes from a coaching roundtable segment which shows head coach Frank Vogel meeting with his assistant coaches. Vogel and the staff were wrestling with how best to deploy Davis, especially as the team gives him more dedicated time at center by just playing one big man (usually Dwight Howard, who is in COVID-19 protocols) and keeping the other (DeAndre Jordan) on the bench.

In the behind-the-scenes clip, Vogel points out that having Davis on the floor to start the second or fourth quarters is difficult because, “it gets tougher to pull AD unless we go back to Dwight to finish the quarter.”

But the Lakers do need to be conscious of Davis’ rest time because, as assistant coach Phil Handy reported in the video to Vogel, Davis is prone to fatigue and, “He’ll make mention of it when he comes out of the game.”

Handy expanded on that, saying, “He keeps saying that he’s tired. So, just like Mike (Penberthy) is telling him, I told him, ‘Look, you get—you don’t want to run the whole quarter, put your hand up. Put your hand up so we can sub you.’”

Anthony Davis Sometimes Plays Entire First, Third Quarters

The Lakers are still in the early stages of figuring out their substitution pattern, and that has been obvious in the handling of Davis. On Wednesday against Dallas, Davis played the first 9:13 of the game, but came out in favor of Jordan with 2:47 to play in the first quarter. He rested over the quarter break and came back with 8:57 to go in the half.

In the second half, it was the same thing—Davis played until the 1:22 mark of the third quarter, then returned at 9:27 of the fourth.

In the two previous games, though, against Boston and Memphis, the Lakers played Davis through the entire first quarter and again through the entire third quarter. In those cases, he got extended rest into the second quarter (he appeared again at 5:21 vs. Memphis) and again in the fourth (he returned with 4:31 to play).

Before the Boston game, against the Clippers, Vogel had gone with the pattern of taking Davis out before the close of the first and third quarters.

Davis Playing More Center This Season

So, it’s a work in progress. And if Davis is tired, then it should be pointed out that he is working harder this season than he has in any other season since he’s gone to the Lakers. He is playing 36.0 minutes, the most since he was traded from New Orleans in 2019, and taking 18.3 shots per game—again, the most in the last three years.

Davis has also played much more center with this year’s Lakers than at any other point in his time in L.A.—and in fact, he’s been at the 5 for the second-longest length of time in his career. Davis plays 70.0% of his possessions at center this year, according to Basketball-Reference.com. He played just 10.0% at center last season.

But it is what the Lakers need from him.

Though Davis has been criticized for his awful 3-point shooting this season (18.2%), fact is, he is working to take more shots near the basket than at any time in his Lakers career. According to NBA.com/stats, Davis is taking 7.8 shots per game in the restricted area and 11.3 in the paint overall. That is up from 4.8 in the restricted area and 9.2 overall last year.

He may be tired. But maybe Davis has a right to be.

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