Lakers' Davis relishes first NBA title after turmoil, trade
Orlando (AFP) –
Anthony Davis didn't let his long-awaited first shot at an NBA title get away.
The 27-year-old averaged 27.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists. 1.4 blocked shots and 1.2 steals to help the Los Angeles Lakers finish off the Miami Heat in six games in the championship series, teaming seamlessly with LeBron James to propel the Los Angeles Lakers to their first title in a decade.
Davis scored 34 and 32 points in the first two games as the Lakers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the series.
His imposing size -- he's 2.08m tall with a wingspan of 2.27m -- make him a force at the rim, but he also excelled from three-point range and at the foul line and was a dominant defensive presence in the Lakers' series-clinching 106-93 victory on Sunday.
"It's a surreal feeling," said Davis, who is eight years younger than James and could be the future face of the Lakers franchise.
As he basked in the glow of a first title, Davis -- who could depart Los Angeles via free agency if he opts out of the final season of his contract -- said he hadn't even begun to consider what the next few years might bring.
"I have no idea," he said, but at least he knows he heads into them with the long-coveted title of champion by his name.
"It's just part of your legacy, to say you're a champion," Davis said. "Not everybody can say that. I wanted to do the same thing in New Orleans. I was there for seven years."
But his first season with James and the Lakers marked Davis's first trip to the finals -- and he looked as though he belonged.
After Miami's Jimmy Butler dropped 40 points in the Heat's game-three win, Davis took on the task of shutting Butler down in a game-four victory that put the Lakers on the brink of victory.
"That guy can do everything defensively," James said. "Guarding the ball, guard the post, slide his feet with guards, contest, can body up with bigs. I mean, need I say more?"
Davis was a commanding defensive presence again on Sunday as the Lakers led by as many as 36 points in a game that turned into a victory parade.
They were the kind of performances, on the game's biggest stage, that Davis seemed destined for when the Pelicans made him the number one pick in the 2012 draft.
He won 2012 Olympic gold in London with a US team that featured such established stars as James and Kobe Bryant.
But he was frustrated in New Orleans, where despite his outstanding play the Pelicans missed the playoffs in four of his first six seasons in the league -- finally making it to the second round in 2018 only to flounder the following season, provoking Davis to publicly demand a trade.
At odds with their star, the Pelicans staggered to the finish line, then ended up trading him to the Lakers anyway in a move that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said last autumn could be a "history-shifting" chapter for the franchise.
- A champion -
While James has certainly been a driving force of the Lakers' return, the addition of Davis put them over the top.
In his first Lakers campaign, Davis averaged 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds. 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocked shots and 1.5 steals per game.
He was runner-up to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Defensive Player of the Year voting -- an outcome James has taken every opportunity to deride as he touts Davis as the more deserving.
It's that kind of backup from his teammates that has helped him thrive in his first season in Los Angeles, Davis said.
"I think just being around these guys definitely helped," he said. "The last, what, two months in New Orleans, it was obviously rocky. We were going back and forth at each other and getting booed.
"To come out here and be with these guys who want nothing but the best for you and want you to win and getting it done, it's a special feeling.
"It just makes it all worth it. It was tough times, but I'm a champion."
© 2020 AFP