LOS ANGELES • Anthony Davis has vowed National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Los Angeles Lakers will be ready for the grind of another campaign despite a short turnaround between their pre-season opener and capturing their joint-record 17th crown.
Less than two months after finishing off the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the Lakers face the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday to launch the pre-season.
All teams will have six weeks less rest than usual as the regular season gets under way on Dec 22, but there will be no greater motivation than defending their title and breaking out of a tie with the Boston Celtics, according to Davis.
“It’s hard in a quick turnaround to play at a high level to compete for a title again but I think we have the players and staff to do so,” the All-Star forward said. “As a champion, you’re going to get everyone’s best shot.
“You have a target on your back. You’re going to find that motivation. We have a bunch of new guys who want to win a championship. I think we’ll be fine in that sense.”
The 27-year-old forward last week signed a five-year deal worth US$190 million (S$253.6 million) to remain with the Lakers, who also inked superstar LeBron James – who turns 36 on Dec 30 – to a two-year extension worth US$85 million that keeps him in LA up till the 2022-23 campaign.
“I was excited for him. It’s a hell of a deal,” Davis said. “To be getting that type of money going into your 18th year (in the NBA), it just doesn’t happen. I’m happy to be playing along with him for three years and I’m not sure he’s going to be done after that.”
With the compacted schedule brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and the Tokyo Olympics starting right after next year’s Finals in July, Davis revealed he and James might see limited early action due to “load management”.
He said: “We have to make sure our bodies are ready so we’re able to repeat. We have to get our rest but at the same time, ready to go out there and compete.”
In addition to securing their star duo’s future, the Lakers have strengthened their support cast with trades for Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol, leading Davis to declare that they will again be the team to beat.
On the possibility of a spike in Covid-19 cases when the season starts due to the league reverting to its usual home and away format, Davis admitted he would miss the safety of the “bubble” in Orlando, where there were zero reported cases during the NBA play-offs.
We didn’t have to worry about Covid so much. That’s one thing I do miss.
“We didn’t have to worry about Covid so much. That’s one thing I do miss,” he said. “With the travel and the hotels, you never know if they are doing what they are supposed to do.”
The biggest trade of the off-season so far has been Russell Westbrook moving from the Houston Rockets to the Washington Wizards, who sent John Wall the opposite way last week.
Losing his fellow All-Star and teammate of eight years has been a “tough pill to swallow” for Wizards guard Bradley Beal, but he is hoping to have the same chemistry with Westbrook as the team look to end a two-year play-off drought.
“It was definitely kind of shocking and crazy to see the news the other day,” he said. “On the flip side, you see who we are bringing in and the calibre of player in Russ and what he is able to do, former Most Valuable Player, walking triple-double.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS