Lakers News: Buzz on Anthony Davis at Center, Russell Westbrook Comments, More

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2021

Lakers News: Buzz on Anthony Davis at Center, Russell Westbrook Comments, More

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    Wally Skalij/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers are ready for training camp after holding their annual media day on Tuesday. The session allowed fans and media members to get a better idea of what to expect from this revamped roster, which is the oldest in the NBA.

    In an all-out push for another NBA title, LeBron James and Anthony Davis welcomed a bevy of veterans to Tinseltown, including a few who had prior stints with the team. Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, DeAndre Jordan, Wayne Ellington and others will don the purple-and-gold jerseys this year.

    So how did this jam-packed roster come about? How will all the pieces fit together? The players offered some insight on those big questions at media day.

Anthony Davis Plans to Play Mostly Center This Season

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Anthony Davis is one of the most gifted big men in the league. He's 6'10" with an ultra-long wingspan, but he can play like a guard with his ability to beat defenders off the dribble or knock down mid-range jumpers.

    With these abilities in mind, it's not hard to see why Davis has often lobbied to play power forward instead of center, even though he's often the biggest player on the court. That could change this season, as Davis says he's ready to play the five this year to help the team.

    "There was expectations and that was discussed, and I expect to play center," Davis said Tuesday, per the Los Angeles TimesBroderick Turner. "I'm not sure what's going to happen. Me and Frank talked about it a couple of times and that's the plan right now. Nothing is set in stone. But we want to see what that looks like. And I'm comfortable with that."

    Davis played mostly power forward last season, averaging 21.8 points and 7.9 rebounds in an injury-riddled campaign. He often played alongside Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell, neither of whom are with the team this year. They have, however, been replaced by Dwight Howard and Deandre Jordan, moves that seemingly indicated Davis might again play power forward. Based on his comments Tuesday, that may not be the case.

    If Davis does indeed start at center, it allows the Lakers some flexibility in their starting lineups. A lineup of Westbrook, Wayne Ellington, Ariza, James and Davis has some balance to it. If Ellington or Ariza are replaced by Howard or Jordan, the lineup gets a bit top-heavy, and the Lakers could struggle against some quicker, smaller teams.

Russell Westbrook Talks About Playing with LeBron James

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The biggest offseason move for the Lakers this year was the blockbuster trade that brought Westbrook to West Coast after a year with the Washington Wizards. It's a homecoming for the 32-year-old point guard, who was born in Long Beach and played college basketball at UCLA. But that's not the main reason he wanted to join the Lakers. Westbrook wants to earn his first championship ring, and he saw an opportunity to do that by teaming up with James.

    Many have wondered how Westbrook will fit into the team as a ball-dominant point guard. After all, James has had plenty of success bringing the ball up the court and running the Lakers' offense. Westbrook seemingly tried to address some of those concerns, telling ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin that he knew they could play together after a joint workout this summer.

    "It was going to work," Westbrook said.  

    Lakers fans will have to hope Westbrook's confidence isn't misplaced. It's easy to see his playing style and limited shooting range—a career 30.5 percent from beyond the arc—disrupting up an offense that figures to center around the brilliant two-man game played by James and Davis. But Westbrook has many talents, and James talked up his ability to run the fast break, telling McMenamin "he ups our pace right away" and also highlighted his talent as a distributor.

    "I think what a lot of people don't talk about in his game is how unbelievable of a passer he is. Everyone sees the rebounds, everyone sees the scoring and things of that nature, but his passing, his ability to make guys around him better, that does not get talked about a lot. We all look forward to that, being his teammate," James said, per McMenamin.

    Westbrook has averaged a triple-double in four of the last five seasons, and last year, he put up a career-high 11.7 assists per game with the Wizards. We may see a lot more of the playmaking Westbrook this season with so many other great scorers on the team.

LeBron James, Dwight Howard Respond to Concerns About Veteran Roster

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Yes, the Lakers have heard the jokes about their aging roster. No, they don't seem too worried about it. The Lakers' media day saw plenty of questions asked about the unusual makeup of the team. Nine players are north of 30 years old, several of them well north of that number, which often signals the tail end of a player's prime basketball years.

    James, who is 37 and entering his 19th year in the league, said "some of the jokes have been extremely funny," per Greg Beachem of the Associated Press (h/t NBA.com). Having said that, the four-time NBA champion wishes more people would focus on the Lakers' accomplishments rather than their age.

    "We come out and we put the time in, we put the work in," James said, per Beachem. "We make our own narrative. One thing that we know (is) who we are. We’ve got a bunch of guys that have been in this league quite a while that understand and know what it takes to win. The business that we’re in is winning, and doing it all the time."

    Indeed, the Lakers' roster features a handful of NBA champions—James, Davis, Ariza, Howard, Rondo and the young Talen Horton-Tucker—and dozens of All-Star appearances. The collective knowledge is impressive. Howard, now on his third stint with the Lakers, believes wisdom will help make up for any physical disadvantages. 

    "Our minds are very strong. We know how to move, we know how to count spaces on the floor. That's a little bit different from just using our speed and athleticism. We're able to use our brains," Howard said, per NBA TV.

    It's also true that age may really just be a number with this team. Westbrook, 32, doesn't seem to have slowed down much in the past couple of years, and James is a well-known fanatic when it comes to taking care of his body. Anthony isn't the player he was in his prime, but he's coming off a couple of resurgent seasons in Portland. It also helps that for all the talk about age, one of the team's most important players, Davis, is still only 28 years old.

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