From the day he was hired, Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham has regularly spoken about the team’s need to compete defensively. The effort on that side of the ball dipped last season and Ham is determined to turn that around. Thankfully, he has one of the NBA’s best on that side of the court in Anthony Davis to anchor things.
There are very few bigs capable of doing what Davis can on defense and while there is still room for improvement, Ham is encouraged by what he’s seen from Davis so far in learning his system.
“He’s asking all the right questions and he’s trying to be as active as he possibly can,” Ham said following the Lakers’ five-point preseason loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “He had two blocks tonight, two steals, changed up a lot of different shots. He was great on the glass with 11 defensive rebounds.
“But I’m seeing him just commit and again, communicate with the coaches, making sure that he knows where he has to be. We spent a lot of time in our pick-and-roll coverage and center field to make him comfortable. We know he can switch and move his feet, but it’s a lot of times where we’re gonna be playing small and he’s gonna have to be back and be a rim protector. Maybe a designated player on the opposing team that he’s guarding which allows him to be the help guy every single time on defense. So I just see him not being stubborn about it, he’s actually being open and embracing a new challenge and trying to execute on that end of the floor.”
The great thing about Davis is that he has the desire and ability to do whatever Ham asks him to do and his commitment should force everyone to be accountable on that end of the floor. To that point, Davis is not satisfied with how the team performed defensively despite being encouraged overall by where the team is at this stage.
“I think we were in a great place. Like I said, there’s some things we got to clean up defensively. And even offensively,” Davis added after the game. “I think we were playing really well in the first half on the offensive end. Shots weren’t really falling, but we were getting good looks. Defensively, it’s a bit we’ve got to clean up. I mean, our starting unit gave up two 30-point quarters in the first half, which we try to hold ourselves to a high standard on the defensive end. And we can’t allow ourselves to allow teams to score that easily.
“Turnovers, some leak-outs on some shots, but for the most part, I think we did good for our second preseason game playing together. And we also tried different lineups. You know, Lonnie [Walker] started tonight. And he was playing really well before he went down with an injury. But just trying to get reps and see what their starting lineup was going to be. And just trying to, you know, figure out things as we progress, closing out this preseason. But I think, for the most part, you know, that first unit played really well.”
With Ham still exploring different lineup combinations and so many new players on the roster, it will still take some time to build that chemistry and for everything to click. But Davis sounds like he has the high standards that Ham expects as well which can only mean good things for the Lakers overall.
Davis willing to play center for Lakers, says it isn’t too taxing
Davis did start at center for the Lakers in this contest, something that has been discussed for years. Davis has made it clear that he prefers to play power forward but is more than willing to play center if it is what’s best for the Lakers.
“At this point … It is what it is,” Davis said. “We’re trying to win basketball games. And if that’s the best situation for us to win basketball games, then that’s what we’ll look at.
“Me and the Coach having a conversation about four or five, like a couple of conversations during practice and things like that, but I think he’s still trying to figure out the rotations as well. And right now, it’s looking… it looks good when I’m at the five. And the defensive coverages that we’re in.”
With Davis’ injury history, questions about playing center wearing on his body, but Davis made it clear it isn’t the case.
“Whether I’m at the four or the five is not too taxing.”
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