‘We’re underdogs’ – Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers rise to prove themselves again

‘We’re underdogs’ – Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers rise to prove themselves again


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — With championship banners hanging over him, two reliable Hall of Fame teammates in the gym with him and a Los Angeles Lakers roster that costs a hair less than $175 million. Anthony DavisA statement about the upcoming season seems unlikely.

“We’re going to approach this season like we have a chip on our shoulder; we’re underdogs,” Davis told ESPN at the team’s annual media conference Monday. “Of course the world is looking to see what we’re doing. But … they don’t talk about us, and that’s fine. You know, we prefer to be under the radar.”

The Lakers? Underdogs? With this group? It’s a bit of a stretch. However, Davis’ statement only served to show how dire it was for LA last season, when the Lakers didn’t even qualify for the playoffs after entering the betting odds winning the championship.

Davis missed 42 games with ankle and knee injuries. LeBron James He played 26 games. Russell Westbrook He struggled to fit in his first season with the team. LA whiffed on several veteran free-agency signings. The Lakers are 21st in team defense and 22nd in 3-pointers made as a team. Coach Frank Vogel was fired less than two years after leading the franchise to its first title in a decade in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida.

Davis in 2010 He’s vowed to get the Lakers back on track this offseason, as he did when he was first traded to LA in 2019-20, and said he felt he had something to prove after a lack of significant team success in New Orleans.

“Be more aggressive,” Davis told ESPN. “I started getting it in my head last year. I don’t think a lot of people know it … because I know how much better I can be.”

He wasn’t the only one who struggled. Westbrook hasn’t found a consistent comfort level playing for Vogel, something Westbrook said he and new coach Darwin Hamm have already established.

“Darvin and I have gotten along since Day 1,” Westbrook said. “It was very important for me to be able to connect with him immediately.”

Along with that, Westbrook said he’s open to whatever coach Hamm offers, even if that means coming off the bench, something Westbrook has done just 17 times in 1,021 career games and not since his rookie season.

“I’ve been told everything I’ve been told,” Westbrook said. “I’m happy and excited to be able to play the game I love.”

However, Westbrook will have a leg up on the starting point guard competition to begin training camp. Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said Dennis SchroederThe veteran minimum contract signee earlier this month is in his native Germany “working on visa issues” and may not be able to report to the team for another week.

Both Hamm and James look forward to a breakout season for the 2017 league MVP.

“He was awesome,” Hamm said of Westbrook. “He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do … when we’ve called him, when we’ve talked to him, it’s all about being unselfish, being team-oriented, being defensive-minded and having him — the words came out of his own mouth. You know he’s going to be at a high level defensively with our roster. .

James Westbrook says he can help the Lakers win this season.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of the journey with him this year, and I’m looking forward to a great year for him,” said James, who will begin his 20th season in the NBA. “And I’ll be right there with him.”

As long as Westbrook is still wearing purple and gold, that is.

“He’s a great part of our team,” Pelinka Westbrook said, but the Lakers executive added, “If we continue to improve our roster during the season, we will.”

Pelinka said he would be open to the right deal if that meant parting with the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks in a trade involving Westbrook.

“In LeBron James, we have one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and he’s committed to a long-term contract, a three-year contract,” Pelinka said of the contract extension. James signed in August to keep him in LA through the 2024-25 season. “So we’re going to do everything we can to make deals and make choices to give LeBron a chance to help us get to the playoffs. He’s committed to our organization. That has to be a bipartisan commitment, and it’s there.”

Before making a decision on whether to shake up the roster with a trade, Hamm wants to see how this team performs on defense.

“We can get stands,” Hamm said. “We should be able to be one of the top defensive teams. We’ll put in the work … we’ve got the personnel for it. And now it’s just a matter of getting everything up and running.”

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