Anthony Davis And The Lakers Know That Defense Wins Championships

It hasn’t taken long for Anthony Davis to show why he wanted to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. The former New Orleans Pelicans standout was sent to L.A. in a blockbuster trade this past offseason, and while the success of the team will ultimately be determined by whether he lifts the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in his career, the early returns have been promising.

Through 14 games, the Lakers boast the best record in the NBA, a 12-2 mark that comes on the back of the stingiest defense in all of basketball. Davis has been magnificent — his 25.2 points, nine rebounds, 3.1 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game all lead the team, with that block number leading the league. He is an MVP candidate, and if he can keep up this level of play, Davis, LeBron James, and co. will have something to say in the race to win the loaded Western Conference.

Outside of basketball, Davis has settled into his new digs pretty nicely. He’s also found some time to tap into his love of sneakers thanks to Foot Locker — the All-NBA forward is part of the company’s 2019 Week of Greatness campaign, titled “No Matter What.” Davis is joined in the campaign by Lakers teammate Kyle Kuzma, along with some big names from across the worlds of sports and culture, like DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion, Juice WRLD, and Alex Morgan.

Amid all of this, Davis took some time to speak to Dime about life as a Laker, his partnership with James, being a sneakerhead, and sharing space in the team’s frontcourt alongside another big-name big man, Dwight Howard.

You’re getting used to a new city and a new franchise for the first time in your NBA career, how’s that gone 10 or so games into that?

It’s going great. Obviously a big change for me, a little different, being with a franchise for seven years and then going to a new situation, new team, new city. Adjusting to it pretty well, and I’m enjoying my time as a Laker.

You just talked about adjusting, was there a bit of an adjustment period for you or did you find it pretty easy getting settled into life as a Laker?

I’ve found it pretty easy. At the end of the day, it’s basketball, so the basketball part was easy, and I stay here in the summertime so moving to L.A. and getting adjusted to the city was pretty easy. It’s been a smooth transition for me.

The big, headline-grabbing thing is you and LeBron are now teammates in L.A. How easy has building up that chemistry been between you two, and how helpful is your friendship off the court in aiding that?

Our chemistry is great. He’s been a good friend of mine for a while, and I think this has helped build chemistry for the season. He’s a great player, great basketball mind, and it’s easy to play with a guy like that who’s selfless and wants to win, and only cares about winning. When you have a guy like that, it makes my job a lot easier. We spent a lot of time as a team in the summertime, so now the team’s chemistry is great. Everyone wants to see everyone play well, everyone wants to see everybody be happy, guys are cheering for each other when guys make plays. We’re a happy team, we’re a team that’s excited for everyone and wants everyone to be successful.

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I’m sure you’ve played plenty of ball with LeBron — during the offseason, national team, all that. Is there anything that surprised you about being teammates with LeBron now that you’re together on a day-to-day basis?

It’s really how selfless he is. Bron really wants to get other guys involved, he don’t really take that many shots unless he has to — sometimes, he takes one or two shots in a whole quarter, trying to get other guys involved. You don’t really see that … you see it when you’re not on the team, but to be in it and to see that he really cares about his teammates and wants everyone to be better around him, it’s something that definitely surprised me.

Wanna ask about the two-man game you two have that has not just Lakers fans, but basketball fans as a whole so excited. Is it at a point where you two feel like it’s just getting reps and getting stuff down, or are there little schematic things and wrinkles that you two haven’t really run yet that you hope to as the year goes on?

I think it’s all schematic, but at the same time, just continually being in that situation, the more and more we run the two-game game with me and LBJ, the better we’ll get at it, the more reads we can have out of it. Just having continuous reps on it, in practice and in games, just trying to figure out what’s most effective. We’ve been effective thus far, but we know teams are going to start adjusting to it, so just trying to figure out different ways that we can be effective in our two-man game. That’s why we’re always talking during the game, practice, whatever on how we can get better.

The other teammate I wanna ask you about is Dwight, getting to play next to him. There was a report that you were part of a group that met with Dwight before the Lakers decided to bring him to L.A., what did he say in that meeting that sold you guys on him being a guy who could help you win a championship?

He just wants to win. Obviously he was here before, it didn’t go so well for him, and he just wanted to come back and win. He felt like this was the best place for him to win and he wants to do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s playing five minutes, playing 30 minutes, not playing at all. He has that mindset, a winner’s mentality, so we wanted to take that chance on him and he’s been wonderful for us this year, playing big minutes, making big plays. We’re all happy we were able to get him in.

He’s been fantastic this year, I looked at the numbers before I came on and when you two are on the floor together, you’re really, really good. How is your game impacted when you’re playing the floor and you have Dwight patrolling the end on both ends of the floor?

Defensively, it allows not just myself, but everyone to pressure the ball, get to the ball, and make guys uncomfortable knowing that we have Dwight in the back, ready to block shots, alter shots, and he’s a great rebounder, which helps us get out and run in transition. All of us are very happy that we have a guy like that, because it gives us another defensive look. Then, we can also go small where I’m at the five as well and other guys are able to do the same thing while I take the Dwight role.

Offensively, he’s a load in the post. He’s rolling to the rim and he’s got three or four guys around him, which leads to open shots for everyone else, and he lets me just roam around the perimeter and get some easy jump shots or easy drives to the basket. Even when we’re driving, he’s a lob threat, being able to just drive and throw it up to the rim, he’ll go get it. He’s been great for us on both ends of the floor.

I’m glad you mentioned defense because you guys have been maybe the best team in the league on that end of the floor. Why does such a defense-first approach work for this team, and what’s some stuff that Frank Vogel has preached about defense?

We know defense wins championships, we want to be a defensive-minded team. We know that we’re not gonna be able to shoot the ball well every night, no one in the NBA is gonna be able to shoot the ball well every night, but you can control how you play defense. We wanted to make sure that we’d be a team that … we wanna hold teams under 100 points every night. Obviously it’s not gonna happen every night knowing that guys in the league, in this day and age, are able to score at will, but that’s how it goes. We feel like we can be a defensive team all year, and we’ve proven that so far.

But we want to continue to get better. There are still some areas on defense where we can get better, that we lack, and each and every day, we’re trying to get better and better at those areas to be an even stronger defensive team. The more we can get better on defense, keep our defensive hats on, the easier it’s gonna be on the offensive end, as well.

What do you have going on with Foot Locker?

The “No Matter What” campaign, which is basically … sneakerheads are willing to do whatever, no matter what it is, to get that last pair of shoes, to get those shoes that they’ve always wanted. It was a fun spot, went great, did some dope spots with a couple great people. It was really amazing, I’m happy to be a part of that.

Are you someone who, before you were in the league, were always trying to get the hottest sneaker drops right as they came out?

Yeah, I never stood in lines or anything, but I kinda had that no matter what mindset as well where I wanted a pair of shoes no matter what. I traded my Xbox to my cousin for a pair of sneakers when I got it for Christmas from my parents. I had that no matter what mentality as well, but it’s fun being a sneakerhead, especially now that I’m able to collect so many shoes because of the position I’m in. You see it all the time with people standing in lines, and you see people in line for hours for one pair of shoes that they might or might not get. It’s just amazing how a pair of shoes have the sneakerheads doing whatever it takes to get them.

I gotta ask, what sneakers did you trade your Xbox for back in the day?

It was a pair of Jordans a long time ago.

You’ve been in the league for eight years, have had a whole bunch of teammates over that time. Who has the best sneaker game of any teammate that you’ve had in your career, and how does yours compare to theirs?

Obviously now, Bron has stuff I’ve never seen before. It’s a lot of guys, once you’re in the league, it’s easier to get a lot of pairs of shoes. I’ve been teammates with so many guys, I can’t remember all the guys who’ve had shoes, but I’d probably say LeBron as someone I can think of off the top of my head. He has a lot of pairs of different types of shoes. But you see guys like Montrezl Harrell and P.J. Tucker, all these guys who bring back the old school retros of all types of sneaker brands, wear them to the game. There’s a lot of guys who have great collections around the league.