When the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans finally pulled the trigger on the Anthony Davis traded, it signaled a shift in the 26-year-old’s career.
It meant that instead of being the only truly great player on one of the NBA’s least popular teams, Davis would become a part of a championship-contending All-Star duo in the sport’s largest market.
While the idea of big market advantage has died out a little bit in recent seasons, it still appealed to Davis to get to one. It’s why his requested list of teams started and ended with the Lakers and New York Knicks. He wanted to be in a place where he could get nightly exposure and where every game means something.
Lakers fans in particular demand more of their players, and it’s something LeBron James saw first-hand during the 2018-19 NBA season.
Davis spoke about the huge difference in expectations from the Pelicans to the Lakers and said that many people never considered Pelicans games a ‘big stage,’ nothing like where he is now, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“I think a lot of stuff that I did in New Orleans, people saw and heard about. But then again, people said, ‘Well, it was New Orleans.’ I think the big question is, ‘All right, let’s see what he can do on a big stage. Obviously the playoffs are the playoffs, but let’s see what he does on 35 [national] TV games now,” Davis says.
Davis also said that when he was with the Pelicans, losing games didn’t feel as important because ‘no one expected them to win.’ But now, expectations are sky-high and those expectations force him to be at his best every night:
“Nobody was really waking up [for a game] in New Orleans. Every game now is like, ‘All right, if we beat the Lakers [we accomplished something].’ [With the Pelicans] we could lose games and people were like, ‘OK, well, no one expected them to win this game,’ or whatever. Now every night you have to show up. If not, the next day here comes your name through the tabloids.”
Davis set the tone for how he’ll perform for the Lakers in his debut game against the Golden State Warriors. He absolutely dominated the paint throughout the first half before taking a seat for the second half.
It’s a scary thought that Davis may not have been giving his best every night for the Pelicans, considering he’s racked up some of the greatest numbers in NBA history already.
If Davis is as committed to this Lakers team as it seems and he’s ready for the expectations, he’s going to be a dangerous player.