Anthony Davis confident Lakers ready for title defence

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Anthony Davis vows the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers will be ready for the grind of another campaign despite a short turnaround between their pre-season opener and capturing the crown.

After finishing off Miami in the NBA Finals on October 11 after a COVID-19 pandemic-extended season, the Lakers face the Los Angeles Clippers next Friday to launch the pre-season, with about six weeks less rest than usual.

“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,” Davis said on Friday in a news conference.

“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 power forward signed a five-year deal worth USD190 million to remain with the Lakers, who also inked superstar LeBron James – who turns 36 on December 30 – to a two-year extension worth USD85 million that keeps him in Los Angeles through the 2022-23 campaign.

File photo shows Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis celebrating with teammate LeBron James after their victory against the Miami Heat at the NBA Finals in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. PHOTO:AP

“I was excited for him. It’s a big 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.”

Davis, a member of the 2012 United States (US) Olympic team, has been nagged by ankle, shoulder and knee injuries over eight NBA campaigns, seven with New Orleans before joining the Lakers last year, so he and James might see limited early action.

“We’re going to talk with the trainers and the coaching staff and see what the best way is to approach it,” Davis said.

“It is a quick turnaround. 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 be ready to go out there and compete.”

While Lakers forward Jared Dudley declares, “I’m expecting AD to go for the MVP” this season, Davis is more concerned with staying healthy than any awards like Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY).

“It’s hard for me to set goals – MVP, DPOY. I just kind of let that happen,” Davis said. “My goal is to be on the floor as much as possible and not get injured. It’s more like that and doing what I can to help the team win.”

Davis did plenty of that last season, averaging 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocked shots and 1.5 steals a game for the Lakers while shooting 50.3 per cent from the floor and 33 per cent from three-point range.

He raised his scoring, rebounding and assist averages during the Lakers’ triumphant playoff run in the Orlando playoff bubble, but the upcoming season will be played at home arenas and the greater risk of COVID-19 that brings even without spectators.

“We didn’t have to worry about COVID so much. That’s one thing I do miss,” Davis said. “With the travel and the hotels, you never know if they are doing what they are supposed to do.”

The deadly virus also limited the Lakers’ celebration of their title, with no parade.

“It’s very weird,” Davis said. “You dream of winning the championship and celebrating with fans. None of that is happening with the pandemic we’re in.”