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SACRAMENTO — The Los Angeles Lakers were hit with an unexpected blow when superstar LeBron James entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols Tuesday morning, but the franchise’s other superstar has been preparing for the day he’ll have to fully take over the locker room.
After the Lakers took care of the Sacramento Kings with the assistance of a 67-33 second-half trouncing en route to a 117-92 victory Tuesday, Anthony Davis spoke to Yahoo Sports on his evolution as a leader and what he’s expecting from his team with James sidelined.
“It’s like I’m being tested with my leadership,” Davis told Yahoo Sports following a team-high 25 points, along with seven boards and two blocks. “'Bron has been out with injuries and now also with the COVID situation, so it’s a good test for me. It's a good experience for me to lead these guys and the good thing about it, I have other vets on my side who’ve been in the game for a while to help me through the obstacles. It’s a good test, not just for our team, but for me to lead these guys.”
For now, in light of the James news, Davis said he didn’t feel the need to address the team on the priorities moving forward.
“I didn’t have to do that, but if need be, then obviously I will,” Davis told Yahoo Sports.
This season, Davis has been more vocal with teammates on the court and in expressing his frustration with the team’s early shortcomings. After getting routed by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 12, Davis didn’t hold back his disdain for their performance. “We sucked,” he said. “ ... We’re not winning a championship the way we’re playing.”
Davis, who is averaging 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks this season, was identified by many teammates as the one who consistently holds guys accountable and offers constructive criticism. The dustup he had with Dwight Howard early in the season is an example of how he’s becoming more comfortable speaking his mind.
And with James expected to be away at minimum 10 days, on top of missing 12 of the team’s 23 games due to injuries and a one-game suspension, Davis is getting a jump-start on being the Lakers’ unquestioned leader.
“I’m just taking that next step in leadership to my career,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “I’m going to lead the team my way. I’m trying to be one of the guys to express how he feels in our locker room. [Rajon] Rondo, ’Melo [Anthony], Russ [Westbrook] have all been encouraging me to use my voice because I’m normally a really quiet guy when I’m playing and the only time I really talk is when I get tipped over the edge. But they’ve been telling me to ‘Use your voice. Use your voice.’”
And despite the team’s 12-11 start and the frustrating remarks that have ensued from many of the losses, Davis said he’s going to be critical when he needs to, but has conveyed to the team that there is plenty of time to turn their season around.
“I’m going to be the guy who speaks his mind whether it’s in the media or the locker room,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “But it’s because I’m trying to help the team breathe confidence in these guys. Obviously, I was here when we won the title, so I’m telling them it’s a long season and just using my knowledge and my experience to help these guys out. The good thing about us, we’ve got a veteran group. All these guys already know what we have to do, which is a good thing. Now the younger group, I’m just telling them, ‘We’re OK. Just keep [pushing on].’ We’ve got a lot of guys who know what they’re supposed to do on and off the floor, especially when you’re missing a guy like that.”
Davis said he spoke with James Tuesday morning after the team got word that James would be in the protocols. Davis said James is feeling fine and shared he’s currently asymptomatic. That news was encouraging, and Davis said he was at peace.
However, Davis treated the day like he typically does on game day by not taking many calls or answering texts. That’s a ritual not even James can penetrate.
“He actually texted me later and I didn’t even respond,” Davis said while chuckling. “He knows I got a game tonight. But seriously when we spoke earlier, we didn’t really talk about basketball. I just checked in on him and made sure he was cool. When it comes to him right now, I’m not even worried about basketball. I’m worried about making sure he’s OK.”