Anthony Davis seems to have found his NBA home with the Lakers
LeBron James (left) and Anthony Davis celebrate in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the NBA Finals as the Lakers win their 17th championship. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lonzo Ball. Brandon Ingram. Josh Hart. Choose number 4. Picks for the first round that extend into the middle of the decade. The Lakers traded a lot - some would say their future - for Anthony Davis.
But the deal that earned them a championship, 17th in the franchise, wasn't a deal for now. It was a deal for the future - the next big Laker to celebrate a championship.
Davis won't go. From the way he played in purple and gold in his first season, it's obvious he's just getting started. He was the perfect partner for LeBron James and it's hard to imagine a better situation.
Davis can become a free agent after the season, but he is expected to sign a max-level deal this off-season. He's found his NBA home and the Lakers are able to match an all-time player right in his prime.
Those finals revealed that Davis, 27, is the "unicorn" James knows is, a gamer with a silky sweater, a devastating game over the edge, and every tool of defense in his pocket. Before the heat hit, with 22 points and just over four minutes to go, Davis fell on the field to knock away a loose ball and damage the shot clock.
He had 19 points and 15 rebounds in the clincher.
And now that he's got a championship who knows what's next? Perhaps the boost from his first title will drive Davis even higher.
Davis didn't have to dominate Sunday - the Lakers ran across Miami together. But the defensive dominance of the Lakers? So much of it comes from being the best defender in the NBA that season.
He fought ankle and heel injuries during the championship run. And while there are still questions about his physical endurance, he played save for one of the team's games in the bladder - a healthy scrape to rest before the postseason.
The most outstanding performance on the court in the bubble could have been when Davis gently pushed the ball off his fingertips and shot home with three wins in the second game of the Western Conference final against Denver - an all-time shot from an all-time player.
After sinking the dagger, Davis said "Kobe".
Anthony Davis of Lakers blocks a shot from Kendrick Nunn of Heat in the second quarter in Game 6 on Sunday in Orlando. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
"It's definitely the biggest shot of my career," said Davis that night. “When I left [New Orleans] I just wanted to fight for a championship. And I know moments like this come with it. "
Before Game 5, Vogel called it his favorite memory from the team's playoffs.
"I think that was obviously an epic moment in NBA history, not just our team's journey this year," said Vogel. "But seeing such a dynamic player have such a great moment in such a big game is the first thing that comes to mind."
Like everything that happened in this organizational turnaround, LeBron James was a central figure. He chose the Lakers. When Davis left longtime agent Thad Foucher to join James and Klutch Sports, the promise of return to fame began to unfold on Friday.
Less than an hour after the agency change became official, James tweeted, "Welcome to the family."
The wishful thinking started to feel like an actual probability in December 2018 when James told ESPN that he would love to work with Davis. At the end of January, Davis informed the pelicans that he wanted to be traded.
Speculation that he wanted to join forces like James in Los Angeles made the market difficult for him. At one point, his father, Anthony Davis Sr., said he didn't want Davis in Boston, a team with the fortune, to compete - and surpass an offer from the Lakers.
Tough feelings within the Pelicans organization led some to believe that no deal would be completely closed because of the strong defiance. But when New Orleans turned basketball operations over to David Griffin, who had previously won a title with James in Cleveland, talks escalated and the deal was closed.
"I'm excited about it and would line up our squad against anyone," said Davis when he was introduced by the Lakers on July 13th. "I have a feeling that in a series of seven games we would come out victorious." . ”
Before the season started, James vowed the Lakers would play Davis through offensively while relying on him to re-anchor a renewed team-wide focus on defense.
James could focus on playing for others - he always seemed to have more Magic Johnson in his game than Michael Jordan.
"I was thrilled, very excited," James said of the trade on media day. “I know the caliber of a player who is AD, not just from a basketball standpoint, but also from a leadership standpoint and what it can bring to any franchise. ... I think it's a great opportunity for this franchise to have an all-round person.
Anthony Davis celebrates after winning his first NBA championship. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
"The basketball will speak for itself."
It turned out that Davis and James were right. And while some feelings favored the Clippers or the Bucks, the pairing was too much for either.
In his fourth game as Laker, he had doubles with 40 points and 20 rebounds, one game with 50 points in December and one game with eight blocks in January. In February he made the game-winning free throw for Team LeBron in the All-Star game and in March he sent the Lakers with a… missed shot into the pandemic break?
Davis couldn't make a three in the last second to beat Brooklyn in the Lakers final game before the restart, a shot that hit him during the shutdown and which he more than obliterated in the bubble against Denver.
“Same spot, a different game and I missed a shot. I was mad at myself. And [James] said, "Man, we'll live or die with you if you shoot that shot," Davis said after his winner. “I got the same opportunity tonight. Ready to do it. Special moment for me. Special moment for the team. "
In the bladder the narrowness between the two was fully displayed. They wait for each other on the square, enter the changing room together and leave the interviews together.
James announced that it worked because there is no jealousy between the two. Davis said there was an exception.
“He made a promise to me and has kept it so far. Hopefully I won't have to be jealous of it for much longer. I want a ring and he has three of them, ”said Davis at the beginning of this finale. "That would surely be the only thing I would be jealous of."
He doesn't have to be jealous anymore. He got what he came to LA for, and the Lakers got that and more.
You got your title. And they have their future. All in one deal.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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