When Anthony Davis gathered with his teammates in Las Vegas for a players-only camp earlier this week, he treaded lightly.
He didn’t want to come on too strong. Davis knew that while he’s this season’s superstar acquisition, he didn’t have the same capital as LeBron James.
“I just tried to follow his lead,” Davis said, pausing for a moment between the endless string of obligations that came with his first Lakers media day. “Obviously he’s been with the organization last year and some of the guys on the team. I definitely didn’t want to come in and be too vocal. I just tried to figure out his leadership abilities, his leadership skills and his role. And also him trying to figure out mine.”
Many egos have collided on championship Lakers teams of yore, with dominant players chafing against each other. But neither Davis nor James has so far expressed any desire to engage in such a battle of wills. They pined to play together for months before it happened. Now that it has, they’ve embraced a spirit of camaraderie, not competition.
“I know the caliber of player that AD is, not only from a basketball standpoint but a leadership standpoint and what he can bring to any franchise,” James said, speaking with reporters for the first time since March. “When [general manager] Rob [Pelinka] and everyone upstairs did what they had to do to acquire a talent and person as AD, I was truly excited.”
Last season James was open about his desire to play with Davis, a 26-year-old power forward. While he doesn’t remember quite what he was doing when he heard the trade happened, James remembers how he felt.
“I was ecstatic,” said James, who is entering his 17th NBA season.
When free agency began, Pelinka treated James and Davis similarly. He called both players when constructing the roster, often several times a day to discuss certain moves. More than once Pelinka has talked about a partnership with the team’s two stars.
“We feel like stars of their ilk deserve to be collaborative in the process of helping assemble the roster,” Pelinka said.
The Lakers are hoping their team jells quickly enough to win a championship this year. With chemistry at a premium, all parties involved wanted to agree on the roster.
In more ways than one, James has made room for Davis on a team he dominated last year. For one thing, James said he wants the offense to run through Davis.
“We got a brand-new coaching staff and brand-new players coming to our system, but we do all know how good Anthony Davis is,” James said. “If we’re not playing through Anthony Davis while he’s on the floor, then it makes no sense to have him on the floor. Because he’s that great.”
Said Davis: “Very kind of him. We’re going to feed off each other tremendously. I think we’re two guys who are very selfless and just want to win. When we have two guys like that it makes both of our jobs easier. Again we also have other guys around who also want to win, who are going to help us along the way.”
Davis called the gathering in Las Vegas “one last hurrah” before training camp began. Now that it has, he and James are going into it hand in hand.