LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis nonetheless remembers the narrative that trailed him to Los Angeles: “Can he do it underneath the brilliant lights?”
Davis had been a stat-stuffing star with the New Orleans Pelicans earlier than forcing his manner out, touchdown with the Lakers in a commerce earlier than the beginning of the 2019-20 season. His first game was towards the Clippers, who restricted him to a subpar effort in a Lakers loss. Afterward, Davis was beating himself up at his locker. LeBron James, who was sitting subsequent to him, suggested him to relax.
“You’re high-quality,” James advised him. “That is Sport 1.”
After which James promptly went again to laughing at no matter he was on his cellphone.
It was an alternate that caught with Davis, who wound up taking part in properly sufficient that season to assist ship the Lakers’ first championship in 10 years. And it was one which Davis fondly remembered on Tuesday evening after the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the Golden State Warriors. One thing about it felt acquainted to him.
A brand new teammate, Russell Westbrook, had assembled a forgettable efficiency in his debut for the Lakers — 8 factors in 35 irritating minutes — that prompted James, with Davis’s assist this time, to supply one other post-Sport 1 pep speak.
“We’re with him,” Davis mentioned of Westbrook. “It’s his job to proceed to be himself, and we’re going to assist him by way of all of the little avenues and these challenges alongside the best way.”
James mentioned he advised Westbrook to go dwelling and watch a comedy.
“Do one thing that may put a smile on his face,” James mentioned. “He’s so arduous on himself.”
One sport doesn’t imply an entire lot when there are 81 left to play. For the Lakers, their grand experiment — so many getting older stars, just one basketball — will resume on Friday towards the Phoenix Suns, who eradicated the Lakers from the playoffs final season. Within the wake of that first-round exit, the Lakers used the summer time to encompass James and Davis with a captivating forged of characters, together with Westbrook, the winner of the 2017 Most Helpful Participant Award and a triple-double manufacturing unit in his heyday.
Now 32, Westbrook is as polarizing as ever. Can he produce without having the ball in his hands more often than not? Can he discover his leap shot? Will he assist the Lakers, or finally harm them?
Once more, the Lakers’ 121-114 loss to the Warriors was merely the primary sport of many. However it was a clunker for Westbrook, who completed with 8 factors, 5 rebounds and 4 assists whereas capturing 4 of 13 from the sphere. Within the 35 minutes he was on the courtroom, the Lakers had been outscored by 23 factors. He additionally had 4 turnovers and a technical foul.
His information convention was temporary and pretty monosyllabic.
What did it imply to him that James and Davis had given him some encouragement within the locker room? “We talked,” Westbrook mentioned.
What did he make of the atmosphere at Staples Middle? “I might say I wasn’t paying a lot thoughts to be trustworthy,” he mentioned.
OK, how about it being his first sport for the Lakers, his hometown crew? “Nothing completely different than a traditional sport day,” he mentioned.
You get the concept. The concentration is going to solely burn brighter from right here — on the Lakers, on Westbrook, and on their choice to commerce for him this summer time as an alternative of understanding a take care of the Sacramento Kings for Buddy Hield, a capturing guard who would appear a greater match to play off the ball with the likes of James and Davis.
“Him greater than anyone, it’s going to be an adjustment interval,” Coach Frank Vogel mentioned of Westbrook. “He’s coming into our tradition, our system. He’s the brand new man, and he’s received to seek out his manner.”
Vogel cited the crew’s patchwork preseason in explaining away a few of Westbrook’s hiccups. No person performed that many minutes collectively. Westbrook’s numbers in 4 video games — 35 p.c capturing, a team-high 23 turnovers — would have been extra alarming if the preseason really meant something.
For his half, James mentioned he suspected that Westbrook had succumbed to “first-game jitters” as a participant who had watched the Lakers rising up.
“And now you’re placing on a Laker uniform and also you’re entering into Staples Middle,” James mentioned. “I can solely think about what number of family and friends have contacted him over the past 48 hours.”
The actual referendum on Westbrook’s viability will play out over the approaching weeks, although there are bigger questions on how this Lakers crew was assembled. In current seasons, they’ve primarily gutted their roster of the younger gamers that they had drafted and had been working to develop — everybody from Brandon Ingram to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — in favor of buying older, splashier gamers.
Golden State offered a helpful counterpoint to the Lakers’ strategy on Tuesday by showcasing Jordan Poole, a third-year guard who scored 16 of his 20 factors within the second half and helped make up for Stephen Curry’s poor capturing evening. Klay Thompson, who’s expected to return to the Warriors’ lineup in a few months after lacking the previous two seasons with accidents, watched from the bench.
Value noting: All three of these gamers are Golden State draft picks. The Warriors proceed to construct from inside whereas the Lakers buy groceries each summer time.
It was not all unhealthy information for the Lakers. James and Davis had been as dynamic as ever, combining for 67 factors. However they may have used some assist.
“I’ve received to determine it out,” Westbrook mentioned.