LeBron James made clear to his new teammate Anthony Davis that he wants the team to run through the 6-foot-10 power forward this season.
In his estimation, there’s a pretty simple reason why.
“We all know how great Anthony Davis is,” James said during Lakers media day on Friday in El Segundo, speaking with reporters for the first time since March. “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.”
James said he’s done this before.
“First couple years in Cleveland when I returned for the second time I wanted the offense to go through Kyrie [Irving],” James said. “I wanted him to be able to run the show. … You can go back to some of my transcripts I was talking about him potentially being an MVP in this league.”
Davis was traded to the Lakers this summer as they remade the team, moving on from every young player they’d acquired over the years except for Kyle Kuzma. It was a move James had long hoped for and one that he said made him “ecstatic” when he heard it finally went through.
“You guys probably seen how much time we spent together in the summertime,” James said. “It’s exciting to have such a beautiful young mind, a beautiful player but also a great leader as well. I don’t think he gets a lot of credit for that. It’s a great opportunity for this franchise to have such an all-around great person.”
Davis, who can become a free agent next summer, said the team included James and himself when putting together the roster. He also said he’d been working out this summer with Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee.
“I just want to focus on this year,” Davis said when asked about free agency. “It’s about what we can do this year.”
James put to rest who was the biggest winner of the summer sweepstakes, which included Kevin Durant and Irving joining forces in Brooklyn while the Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
“Everyone’s talking about the big winners of the summer time,” he said. “Is it the Nets, is it the Clippers, is it the Lakers? It’s actually Staples Center. Staples Center is the biggest winner of the summer.”
He then quipped in reference to his eldest son Bronny beginning his high school career: “Maybe Sierra Canyon can go there and play a game. ... They have some freshman on the team that’s doing well for himself.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said that no decisions have been made on a starting lineup while general manager Rob Pelinka likes the 15-man roster they have assembled but is open to trying to improve it.
“When the starting point of your roster is two of the best players in the universe that’s a great starting point. ... It puts us in a position to be the last team standing,” Pelinka said.
Vogel agreed but said there is plenty of work to be done.
“We have the ability to achieve the ultimate prize ... but it’s not going to happen unless we come together,” Vogel said.
Added Pelinka: “I think our biggest opponent is in the mirror.”
One aspect that Vogel hopes to improve is on offense.
“The shooting improvement, I hope it to be dramatic from this time last year,” he said.
The Lakers are one of five teams to hold their media day on Friday. The others are Brooklyn, Houston, Indiana and Sacramento.
Other topics on Friday included Kyle Kuzma’s injury, the signing of Dwight Howard and the coaching staff assembled around Vogel.
The Lakers announced on Thursday that Kuzma has a stress reaction in his left foot. He originally injured his ankle while training with Team USA this summer before the FIBA World Cup.
“We have a lot of hope about the progress Kyle has made,” Pelinka said. “There’s a lot of optimism, not a whole lot of worry.”
Kuzma, entering his third season, said his injury is not as serious as it could be.
“It’s that we caught what I have at the right time,” he said.
Of all the draft picks the Lakers have acquired over the last five seasons, Kuzma and 2019 second-round selection Talen Horton-Tucker are the only two left.
“I’m grown now,” Kuzma said. “I’m not a kid. We have Talen. He’s like 18, he’s the kid.
“It’s pretty cool … a lot of these guys I’ve watched for year and years now,” he added of his teammates. “I’m a piece of the team and it’s pretty cool.”
Pelinka said of bringing back Howard, “It was the interaction with him and it started with his openness to a concept of a non-guaranteed contract.” Vogel added that Howard’s acceptance of being a role player helped the situation.
Vogel’s coaching staff includes two former NBA champions in Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins.
When asked about his relationship with Kidd, who like Hollins is a former NBA head coach, Vogel said, “I would rate it a 10 out of 10. I think we’re off to a great start with our chemistry with one another. His intent to come in here and play any role that is needed should be commended.”
Early news from back east includes Rockets All-Star guard James Harden announcing “it’s one of my goals to represent this beautiful country” in the Olympics, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, while Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo is unsure of when he’ll be returning to the lineup as he continues to recover from a torn quad tendon in his right knee.
Kyrie Irving had the back of new Nets teammate Kevin Durant when, according to Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press, he said the former Thunder and Warriors star “was not ready to play” in the NBA Finals last spring after recovering from a calf injury and subsequently went down with a torn Achilles tendon. “We all know that, whether people want to admit it or not.”
Defending NBA champion Toronto will have its media day on Saturday while the Clippers will do so on Saturday. All other NBA teams have their media days set for Monday.
On the NBA coaching front, Houston’s Mike D’Antoni and his bosses reportedly aren’t worried about agreeing to a contract extension. “I see him here long term,” said Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
Staff writers Tania Ganguli, Broderick Turner, Dan Woike and Arash Markazi contributed to this report.