With less than two minutes to go in a Los Angeles Lakers blowout win over the Memphis Grizzlies, LeBron James was smiling. Returning to the bench during a timeout, he salsa danced as the Staples Center crowd erupted in “Taco Tuesday” chants. The warm applause was nothing new, but the reason behind it was. This 120-91 blowout wasn’t James’ to claim.
When the Lakers traded their lot of prospects for Anthony Davis, the NBA had a new scare. James was armored once again with a superstar teammate, much like Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love of years past. Davis is a different type of star, but he’s just as good as any of them — and maybe even better.
On Tuesday night, Davis carried the Lakers and made history a few times over. He became the first NBA player since the shot clock era to score 40 points with 20 rebounds in 30 minutes of playing time. He finished with the most free-throw makes in Lakers history with 26 (on 27 tries), most free-throw makes in a quarter in NBA history with 18, and helped the Lakers to a 22-0 run over the Grizzlies, the franchise’s biggest in the last 20 years.
Davis is no ordinary James teammate. He’s a whole other alien.
Davis torched the Grizzlies defense
What makes Davis so special isn’t merely his near-7’ height or unbelievable wingspan. It’s his ability to possess both those traits while also staying so mobile. He doesn’t have to wait for James or a guard to collect his rebound to drive down court. Davis can take the ball up himself and create his own scoring opportunities.
He doesn’t have incredible handles, but Davis is a capable dribbler. His size is really the difference-maker. One move and two steps later, he can be from the three-point arc to the rim. James doesn’t have to spoon-feed Davis in the paint, or even have to be on the court for Davis to thrive. The Brow is his own star, and his 27 free-throw attempts are the proof.
Granted, the Grizzlies’ defense is young and inexperienced. This wasn’t Davis’ toughest test. But even after an infinite amount of adjustments, Memphis was reduced to hacking Davis, sometimes even before he caught the ball.
If they didn’t, they were prone to any Laker throwing a lob pass to Davis from almost anywhere. James’ halfcourt chuck to a spinning Davis for a 180-oop was the show-stopper.
LeBron throws a HALF COURT alley to Anthony Davis pic.twitter.com/75mISfmbvr— Whistle (@WhistleSports) October 30, 2019
Davis’s final stat-line included two blocks, two assists and no turnovers. He was the total package, and everything the Lakers need him to be to compete for a championship this year.
Heck yeah, the Davis trade was worth it for the Lakers
The Lakers gave up a steep package to land Davis. It included Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, who both look like the type of possible future all-stars LA had hoped it could grow them into all along. Ingram is scoring the ball like never before, and a healthy Ball changed his awkward jump shot and is seeing the floor as well as he ever has. The Lakers also lost a quality role player in Josh Hart and three draft picks. But so it goes in pursuit of a title in the small window the franchise has open.
As every NBA season in recent memory has taught us: go get the superstar, no matter the cost. There are only 10 or so NBA players who can be relied on to be a playoff series’ biggest difference-maker, and now the Lakers have two of them.
We saw what James did with Kyrie Irving, winning one title in two tries. We saw what he did with Dwyane Wade, winning two in four. James might be a step slower now, but Davis is many times quicker than anyone he’s ever paired with.
James heading to the bench with plenty of game left could become more routine than ever. Davis is simply that good.