Between the boredom that typically infiltrates a team in the season after they win a championship, the lack of rest time from the end of the NBA Finals to the start of this season,and the unusual level of roster turnover the Lakers had in November and December, it would be expected that the team would need time to round into form.
According to one Lakers insider—ESPN’s Dave McMenamin—even within the organization, that period of time was expected to be “six to eight weeks.” At times here in the early going, the Lakers have played like a team mired in early-season doldrums, out-of-kilter at times, especially on the defensive end.
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But, McMenamin speculated, that grace period might be shortened after Anthony Davis’ profanity-laced response to the Lakers loss to the Spurs on Thursday, in which he labeled the team’s defense, “s***.”
Anthony Davis vents frustration about lack of defense being played by this revamped Lakers team: "We didn't play any defense. Our defense was shit tonight. We didn't play one lick of defense and them guys did whatever they want." pic.twitter.com/IDv3cxtBkh
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) January 8, 2021
“I have spoken to members of the organization who have given an unofficial timeline (of six-to-eight weeks) from when the season began to be where they should be,” McMenamin said on Zach Lowe’s podcast. “Perhaps that timeline has been accelerated after the Spurs loss because Anthony Davis was brooding and it bubbled over during the game. He knocked over a Gatorade cart during a timeout in the third quarter. Anthony Davis is not a guy to pop off in his press conferences. He was dropping several curse words in his postgame presser.”
Anthony Davis Taking Over as Lakers Leader?
But McMenamin saw some positive in the response that Davis has had to the Lakers uneven start. Davis is, typically, mild-mannered when dealing with questions about his own team, making his postgame display on Thursday all the more surprising—rarely has he taken out his frustrations on inanimate objects like plastic drink containers when he goes to the sideline.
The Spurs notched 118 points and shot 45.7% from the 3-point line against a Lakers team that was nonchalant defensively. That effort was worthy of Davis’ anger.
According to McMenamin, this all could be a sign that Davis is taking more responsibility from LeBron James as a leader within the Lakers, a process that has been building since he arrived with the team last season.
He said at that moment, in particularly, he was frustrated with failed defensive assignments, frustrated he missed two free throws—we know he is a proficient free-throw shooter. But to see him in that moment being like, ‘Enough is enough, this is not our standard …’ To me, it was a sign of maybe that six-to-eight week period will be four-to-five weeks before they look the way they should because Anthony Davis is going to take ownership here. That’s a great thing because at some point in this structure, this venture between him and LeBron James, I think he will be the guy taking ownership.
Lakers’ Defense Struggled to Contain ‘Stretch-5’ LaMarcus Aldridge
There was more to Davis’ outburst, too, as he explained in his presser. Davis also laid into the Lakers for their inability to guard LaMarcus Aldridge, a good perimeter shooter as a center, among the best “stretch-5s” in the NBA, even at age 35. Aldridge scored 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting.
The Lakers started Marc Gasol at center, but Gasol is slow-footed and can’t defend perimeter centers like Aldridge. He played only 13 minutes but was a minus-16 on the night. That is a red flag—if not Gasol, do the Lakers have anyone who can guard perimeter-oriented big men?
“This is the first time we’ve seen one,” Davis said of a center like Aldridge, “but we messed up our coverages. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do, so we can’t even tell if our defensive schemes worked for a stretch-5.”
He was frustrated, and rightfully so. Pay attention to how quickly the Lakers respond to Davis’ postgame anger.