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Newsletter: Anthony Davis frustrated after latest Lakers loss, says ‘I just want to win’

Anthony Davis raises his hands in dejection.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) looks on in dejection as Clippers guard Reggie Jackson celebrates on Thursday night at Crypto.com Arena.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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Hey everyone, this is L.A. Times reporter Dan Woike, writing from the press room at the Imaginary Money That Will Either Ruin Us Or Someday Control Us, um, Arena.

For this week’s Lakers Newsletter, we’re going to try something different as I take you inside the back hallways outside the Lakers locker room, where I had a quick chat with Anthony Davis.

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The moment at hand

This has been the real Anthony Davis.

Completely clean from the bad feelings that came from his trade demand from New Orleans more than three seasons ago, one of the NBA’s best defenders almost fully let his guard down. He’d joke with reporters during his rehab, pump-faking interviews and talking trash about his favorite NFL team.

He’d talk trash when the cellphones came out to record his on-court workouts, laughing it off when he’d miss a shot because he “meant to do it.” And when he returned to the lineup in Brooklyn 10 days ago, he was excited to finally see if the Lakers could fulfill the high expectations that he, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook had set before the season.

Yet Thursday night after the Lakers’ fourth loss in five games, Davis walked back toward his locker room with his sneakers in his hand and his uniform still on. He had just dominated — 30 points, 17 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

The real Davis wants to win, especially after how his tenure with the Lakers began with a championship. But his efforts haven’t been enough, the reality of giving so much without getting something in return frustrating him.

“I just want to win. I’ve had seasons where I’ve lost a lot in New Orleans. And it weighed on me. And then I came here and I got spoiled with winning my first year,” Davis said during a one-on-one interview with me Thursday night. “Second year, we go to the playoffs and I feel like we could’ve still been successful if I didn’t have the injury. And this year, everyone counted us out. Said we were old. The whole locker room, we’ve got guys who have chips on their shoulders.

“But for me personally, I just want to win. I don’t want to go back to having losing seasons.”

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Anthony Davis
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis reacts after missing the go-ahead shot the Lakers lost to the Clippers at Crypto.com Arena.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

And he doesn’t want the Lakers’ critics, who have almost universally been proven correct through 53 games, to be right.

“I want to win, especially in a place like this. Bright lights, people counting you out, people saying whatever about me, about the team. Yes, we want to prove everybody wrong, but we want to do it for ourselves, for Melo [Carmelo Anthony], for Russ, for the guys who haven’t won.”

In his last four games, all coming with James nursing a swollen knee, Davis has been close to unstoppable. He’s averaging 29.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, making more than 55% of his shots. Thursday, on the second night of back-to-back, Davis played nearly 38 minutes and just missed the potential game-winning basket on a last-second runner, a torturous in-and-out shot that left him stunned with his hands on his head.

“The ball touched every part of the rim,” he said. “I can’t ask for a better look.”

The Lakers probably can’t ask for more from Davis after he’s delivered a stretch of games that reminds everyone why he’s supposed to be next in line to lead the franchise once James’ time at the top is done.

Since helping the Lakers win a championship, Davis’ reputation around the league has suffered. An injured Achilles last season came with people around the league questioning his conditioning levels, the result, undoubtedly, of the Lakers’ severely compressed offseason. While he committed to staying on the court this season, a freak injury in Minneapolis left him with a sprained knee and 17 games out of the lineup — the major reason why he’ll miss the All-Star Game for the first time since his rookie season.

Davis has repeatedly vented about the Lakers’ self-inflicted mistakes, the little errors on the margins that a better team could possibly play through but that have been the difference between wins and losses for one as flawed as the Lakers.

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Thursday in that back hallway, he repeated that assessment again.

“We get behind and then we, once we’re down 15, it’s ‘Oh s—, let’s get back to what we’ve been doing,’ ” he said. “We’ve got to come out with that same energy.”

If everything had been going right, those lapses could be overcome. But with James still receiving treatment on his knee, with Anthony now dealing with an injured hamstring, with a handful of role players inconsistently contributing and with Westbrook still trying to find his comfort zone, the Lakers are still losing, now three games under .500 and a sobering 17 games out of first place in the West (with only two teams, Detroit and Orlando, more than 17 games out of first in the East).

“It’s an uphill battle for us now,” he said.

At least there’s no question that he’s ready to climb.

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Coming attractions

Some really exciting stuff is headed your way in this space, including a planned question-and-answer session with Philadelphia columnist and author Mike Sileski, who wrote “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality.”

There’s also, maybe (fingers crossed), a planned chat with a frequent subject in this newsletter.

Anyways, keep an eye open, and if you have questions for Mike, let me know by replying to this email.

Song of the week

Sisyphus” by Andrew Bird (Live on KEXP)

Maybe it’s a little on the nose, but the story of someone pushing a boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down once it got to the top seems to fit this team. Also, all the live KEXP sessions are the best.

Enjoy.

Since we last spoke ...

— Lakers erase 17-point deficit but fall at the finish to Clippers
Lakers-Clippers roundtable: Where they stand before their showdown
— How Victor Solomon helped design Kobe Bryant MVP trophy for All-Star game
Carmelo Anthony steps up for Lakers in LeBron’s absence in win over Trail Blazers
— Anthony Davis scores 30 as Lakers rally to beat Trail Blazers
Lakers’ hot shooting not enough in 129-121 loss to Hawks
— Austin Reaves emerges as a rare win for Lakers during challenging season
— Russell Westbrook lifts short-handed Lakers but can’t hit winner in loss to Hornets

Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at daniel.woike@latimes.com, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!

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