Anthony Davis was the best big man in the NBA when the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 championship, but that version of himself has been missing for most of the past two years. Across 76 games in the last two Lakers seasons, Davis averaged just 22.5 points and 8.9 rebounds -- far cries from his former All-NBA self. As the Lakers slid and LeBron James dealt with injuries, it started to appear as though the team's vision of eventually passing the torch of face of the franchise to Davis would never truly come to pass.
But with James sidelined these past few games, Davis has stepped up and begun playing some of the best basketball of his life. Over his past three games, all Lakers victories, Davis is averaging 35 points and over 17 rebounds per game. Those numbers would have been even more impressive had Davis not been pulled from Sunday's blowout early. The previously 2-10 Lakers are suddenly looking frisky, and it's largely thanks to a player the Lakers spent years hoping would reemerge. According to James, he has.
"We haven't talked about it, but he [LeBron] did say that I'm playing like my old self, so I'm trying to get back into that rhythm," Davis told ESPN's Dave McMenamin. It's fitting in a sense, but perhaps doesn't even do Davis justice. Even during his best stretches, Davis has rarely rebounded like this. While he wasn't playing with star-laden rosters in New Orleans, he typically had more space than he does on the Lakers now. Davis is playing his best basketball on perhaps his worst overall team, keeping the Lakers afloat almost singlehandedly while James recovers.
And when James returns? Davis can get back to playing the role he played when they won a title together in 2020. Match the aggression and skill he's displayed recently with the chemistry he and James formed in their first season together and they might be able to salvage this season, after all.