Anthony Davis is experiencing something LeBron James went through nine years ago.
For the first time in his NBA career, he isn’t the only superstar on his team.
“When you’re able to put yourself around other great talent, you know that you don’t have to put the most stress on your body, physically, mentally, every single night,” James said Sunday. “Now that doesn’t mean that you’re not gonna bring it the same way you brought it before, but you also know that you have guys that can be in the foxhole with you that’s ready and prepared to go out and perform, and perform at a high level every night. So it definitely helps.”
Their moves, though, were received in very different ways. Public sentiment about stars teaming up has changed since James joined the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010 to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
A superteam had never been built that way, with the leaders of two conference rivals deciding to join forces with the star of a third, and they were reviled for it. James in particular was criticized for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and announcing his move on a television special.
Davis, meanwhile, drew mild criticism for requesting a trade out of New Orleans, but took no flack for teaming with James. After all, the Golden State Warriors won three championships over the last five seasons with a collection of stars. This summer several teams altered their rosters to feature dynamic duos. The Clippers added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Houston Rockets added Russell Westbrook to James Harden’s team, and the Brooklyn Nets acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“When we decided to team up in 2010, the temperature was extremely high,” James said. “And I mean extremely high. It was almost like we were the first Big Three to ever be assembled. It was like, the Big Three has been happening throughout the eternity of basketball. Like, Elgin Baylor, Wilt [Chamberlain], Jerry West. People, like, forget that.
“But right now the temperature is very cool. It’s a very nice 68. Fan on medium. L.A. weather. It’s perfect.”
Davis saw the benefits of their partnership during a preseason home game against the Warriors on Wednesday. At one point he noticed he had scored only five points and the team led by more than 20. He mused to James about how that rarely happened before.
“When he comes off pick and rolls or comes off a down screen, he draws a lot of attention,” Davis said. “And usually two guys go to him which leaves me open roving to the basket or a guy shooting on the weak side. The more and more we get opportunities to be in the pick and roll, the more effective we can be at it.”
As James sees it, the pairing also allows them to sharpen each other.
“For us to be able to challenge each other, that’s one thing that’s for sure the same,” James said. “Me challenging D-Wade, D-Wade challenging me, Chris Bosh, and then me challenging AD, AD challenging me. That is definitely the same.”
The Lakers ruled out Kyle Kuzma for Tuesday’s season opener against the Clippers as he recovers from a stress reaction in his left foot.
Kuzma sustained the injury during the summer while he was with Team USA. He was cleared to do non-contact practices after the Lakers returned from China last Sunday. Coach Frank Vogel said he wants to see Kuzma do more work before playing.
“Right now we’re just talking about ramping up his activity and we’re not going to look past two days from now,” Vogel said. “We’re going to try to increase his workload and activities this week and we’ll see where we’re at.”
Vogel said the next step could be adding full-court work with sprinting, or half-court work with contact.
Kuzma is in his third season. The Lakers refused to trade him this summer when they acquired Davis, and he is now the only player drafted by the Lakers before 2019 on the team.
“He’s probably our third-best player, so to add him to the mix, we can go a lot of different directions,” Vogel said. “It probably gets more enticing to play Anthony at the five with Kuz out there and LeBron and a couple guards. But our fives have been great. So, we’ll have what we like to call good problems when he’s back to full activity.”