Everyone knew the Lakers had to take advantage of an early season schedule that was light on heavyweights and heavy on the cupcakes. But who saw Los Angeles running out to the league's best record (along with Milwaukee) six days before Christmas?
The Lakers. That's who.
"We did. I mean, anytime we step on the floor, we feel like we can win any basketball game no matter who the opponent is," says Lakers forward Anthony Davis. "And you know, we let some slip away from us but, the good thing about all of those losses is that we beat ourselves. You know, it was all things that is correctable, so we are going to keep fighting."
Heading into the massive matchup with the Bucks, Davis will tell you that life as a Laker is good. Teaming up with LeBron James to form one of the game's deadliest tandems, the Lakers are racking up the wins while Davis balls at an MVP level and plays that kind of individual defense that will make him worthy of Defensive Player of the Year honors at the end of the season. Before Thursday's showdown in Milwaukee, we took the temperature of Davis and his new squad by talking to the superstar about how the Lakers got off to such a hot start, why the pick-and-roll with him and LeBron is so dangerous, and his partnership with Mobil One that could net one lucky fan a lot of money.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
we know how much of a student of the game LeBron is and you know, but just being on the same team with him, how much he studies the game and how much he knows the game, how much of a leader he is. You hear about it, but until you're able to play alongside him, you really get a feel for it.
I guess we'll kick off the basketball talk by asking you—because you've been playing such incredible defense—if the Defensive Player of the Year award something you're tangibly going after?
Yeah, I mean, I just think it helps a lot with my team defense. I'm the one who tried to get the thing going defensively. And if I'm able to do that, we tend to have great defensive games. But we have a lot of guys who are defensive minded. By trying to get a DPOY trophy, I think, it's not just about my defense alone, but the team defense. I think defense on any team it's not just by one player but by an entire team. We have a bunch of guys who are defensive minded. So it's definitely my goal to try to lead the team on defense.
Yeah. And I would say looking at you guys, getting off to the best record in the NBA, I think defense would clearly be the catalyst of that. But I'll ask you, what's been the biggest reason why you guys have run out to the best record in the NBA?
Just like you said, defense. I mean we've been able to have great defensive ratings. Obviously, the offense to the little of time to start clicking and we've kind of found a rhythm and a groove and the guys, I put a lot of confidence in their games and, for the most part we've been able to hold teams under their average and so we continue to play defense and then we can continue to win ball games.
We all knew that the Lakers had to take advantage of the early-season schedule. You guys obviously have been awesome. But did you see 24-4 coming? Because this start has been pretty much incredible and borderline historic for you guys.
We did. I mean, anytime we step on the floor, we feel like we can win any basketball game no matter who the opponent is. And you know, we let some slip away from us but, the good thing about all of those losses is that we beat ourselves. You know, it was all things that is correctable, so we are going to keep fighting. You know, obviously it's early in the season and we don't want to get too high. We try to stay even keel, but we figured that we got a lot of veteran guys on our group, great coaching staff, who has multiple championships. So it's easy for us to gel and when guys come in for the same goal and buy into the coaching system and the gameplan that we have each and every game then it's easy to go out there and win games.
You and LeBron had been playing incredible basketball and there's MVP talk around the two of you. But I'm curious with all the veterans and the new coaching staff that you guys have, who deserves more credit for the success of the Lakers but maybe hasn't been receiving the amount of praise that they really deserve?
Everyone. I mean it's been a team effort. Coaching staff and players. No one player deserves all the credit, I think we all have, in some shape or fashion, have won games this season so far. So I think both sides, players and coaches, deserve the credit also front office for putting this team together. So it's a credit to the organization.
Has being a Laker and all the attention and notoriety that comes with it on and off the court, basically been what you expected? Or has it been even crazier?
It's been what I expected. I mean, I got prepared for it, a lot of people told me about it. Obviously, you know Bron last here last year kind of gave me a run down of how it was going to be and also some other couple of guys. So it's been everything I expected and it has been nothing but fun.
I want to talk about the pick-and-roll with you and LeBron because to watch you guys run that, at times it is so dominant. So I mean give me an idea of how running the pick-and-roll with LeBron compares to how you've run it with other teammates previously because it just seems so dynamic and so dangerous and just sometimes, frankly, unfair.
It's very dangerous. You know, he's able to attack the basket, he can pass, which makes it even more dangerous for other teams to guard. And so when you have a guy like him who's getting downhill like a freight train, he can pass the ball and then you got me rolling. And it draws a lot of attention on to the defense and draws all attention to me and LeBron. So the defense is in a bind whether they're going to stop him or let him get a layup or pick me up or let me get a dunk. Then we got a lot of great shooters around us, so you know, he's able to kick it out o shooters and they're able to make shots. So it's a tough situation. We're deep with the guard, but that's why it's so dangerous.
What's been the biggest revelation about playing with LeBron that you maybe didn't see coming?
I think it was just his IQ. I mean, obviously, we know how much of a student of the game LeBron is, but just being on the same team with him, how much he studies the game and how much he knows the game, how much of a leader he is. You hear about it, but until you're able to play alongside him, you really get a feel for it. And realize how great of a leader and great of a player he is.
What do you marvel most about him? Is it the passing? Is it the way that he keeps himself in incredible shape at age 35? Is it the motivation?
The way he takes care of his body. I mean every practice, game, shootaround, walk-through, he makes sure he's recovering and getting ready for the next game, practice, shootaround, whatever. So you don't know those things if you're not on the team with him.. I mean you hear about it, you've spent this amount of money on strong recovery and treatment and you know, he does this, he does that. But until you get in the same room with him and realize what he do as to make sure that his body is in tip-top shape and ready to go for a next game, it's unbelievable the things he do. And so I'm definitely a big fan of that and trying to take as much as I can from that. And so I can also follow in the footsteps of playing X amount of years in this league and still be able to perform at a higher level like year 17.
We know that you sat out in the game against the Pacers Tuesday. So are we going to see you in the lineup against the Bucks?
Hopefully. I mean I'm going to continue to get treatment done and try to get some things ready before that game, but we got to see how I feel.
I'm sure your hyped to get back in the court, but are you going to be a little extra hyped for this matchup with the Bucks? Because the fans and the media are going to make a lot of this since it's an historic matchup. The NBA put out the stat that this is only the second time in league history that two teams with four or fewer losses have met this late in the season.
I mean, it's going to be a fun game. Both teams coming off a loss that they both feel like they should have won. Both teams are first in their conference. So it's going to be a fun game and it's going to be very exciting. I know that they're going to have a little bit more energy. We're going to have a little more energy. So it's going to be a battle. So we're excited for it.
I thought you're going to tell me "It's just another game. It's another game and one out of 82." I know you guys understand that we in the media and the fans get really hyped up for these games, but you seem to have a little more excitement than at least LeBron said Tuesday night which is good and interesting.
It is another game. It's going to have a little bit more excitement just because both teams don't want to lose two in a row, that's kind of been our mindset for the whole year, that we are not going to lose two in a row. And I think Giannis [Antetokounmpo] the other day said the same thing, that they're not going to lose two in a row. So one team is going to have to lose two in a row. And so that's going to be the fun part, but it is another game. I mean, we're not going to come in and get too hyped about it, we're going to go out there and run our schemes and do what we're supposed to do on both of ends of the floor and hopefully we can walk away with a victory.
I know you had said during a recent game that it finally hit you that you were actually a Laker. You had that moment I think in a timeout where it really hit you. Did you have a similar moment when it hit you when you're playing alongside the LeBron?
No, I never had that moment. I probably never will. I mean, I've been knowing him for a while. Maybe if I was a rookie, on the right day, I'd have that moment, but now I'm too late in my career.
I was just curious if there was an alley-oop or a moment in practice where it's like, "Oh shit! I'm playing alongside one of the greatest passers of all time" or "one of the all time greats."
I mean, in that sense, yeah. I mean, he's done some passes. It was two passes [Tuesday] he threw to Dwight [Howard] and on to JaVale [McGee]. So I mean it's stuff like that, that you see and it's like, did this really just happen? I wouldn't say I’m star struck playing with him. But to see the things he does on the floor constantly, especially in year 17, I'm definitely a fan of that.
Is this going to be you're first time playing on Christmas?
Second. The first time was against LeBron too.
Coming full circle here. But tell me how special it is to be playing on...I mean, I think a lot of guys would probably tell you that they prefer to not play on Christmas, but also some guys at the same time say it's really cool to have that national showcase and be playing when everyone's watching. How do you feel about it?
I mean, it's a special moment. It's like football, Thanksgiving, it's a privilege and an honor and some guys go their whole career and never play on Christmas. I only played one year out of seven years [in New Orleans] on Christmas Day. So I mean it's a exciting thing and obviously, people say that [they don’t like it] just because you don't get a chance to spend Christmas with your family cause you have to prepare for the game and you have a late game then you know your whole morning and day is your game day routine. But at the same time you got to enjoy it. I'm excited to play on Christmas and I'm going to spend the rest of the time with my family afterwards.
Give me a quick rundown of what you have going on with Mobile 1.
You know, having the sweepstakes where a fan can win up to $250,000 over certain game stretch, between December 28th to January 15th and they can register at mobil1.us/ontheline and they're able to win $250,000 if I record five or more points, rebounds, assists, blocks, or steals in a single game so they can start registering now at and leave the rest up to me.