Sat Jul 13 6:03pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Anthony Davis' year of uncertainty finally felt finished when he stood in the Los Angeles Lakers' training complex and proudly held up his new gold jersey while LeBron James looked on approvingly.
After months of upheaval around his departure from New Orleans, the superstar forward is looking forward to years of success and stability on the West Coast.
Sure, Davis knows the Lakers are rarely stable, and championships are the only success this franchise understands.
The six-time All-Star can't wait for the challenge of winning big in the Hollywood spotlight.
''The most difficult part for me was just not knowing,'' Davis said Saturday. ''When it was announced that I was being traded, I don't want to say it was a relief, (but) it was something that I'd thought about for a long time. Obviously it was tough to leave the city I'd been playing in for seven years, but I think it was best for me.
''When I found out I'd been traded to the Lakers, I realized it was an unbelievable opportunity for me,'' he added. ''To be here with a wonderful organization, and then to be able to play alongside LeBron and the players that we have now ... to get the opportunity to do that and come here and play for an organization that's all about winning, and winning championships, and that's the only goal, I think that was the biggest thing for me.''
The Lakers formally acquired Davis this month in one of the biggest moves of the NBA's tumultuous offseason, but this courtship has been happening for much longer. Davis became determined to leave New Orleans last season, and Los Angeles made an in-season run at Davis before eagerly blowing up its young core to get a second game-changing star to play alongside James.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka introduced Davis as ''the most dominant young basketball player in the world.''
''There is no more complete basketball player in the game,'' Pelinka added. ''There is nothing he can't do. He can shoot. He can make plays. He can defend 1 to 5. He can protect the rim. He can handle the ball. His dedication to his craft is unparalleled. To sit here next to him and think he's going to be on our team and he's going to be a pillar in this franchise for many years is just something we're incredibly proud of.''
The Lakers gave up Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and a slew of draft picks to land Davis one year before he could become an unrestricted free agent. While Pelinka clearly expects Davis to sign a long-term deal to stay with the Lakers, Davis didn't make a declaration of his intentions right away.
''Right now, my focus is on this year, and trying to help this organization become a championship team,'' Davis said.
Davis' new jersey will bear a No. 3 after his plan to take his usual No. 23 from James fell through thanks to rules involving jersey supplier Nike, who had already begun planning for next season with James in the No. 23 shirt. Davis will go back to the number he wore in elementary and middle school, although he jokingly said the denial of No. 23 ''was pretty hurtful.''
Davis and James have been kept up to speed on Pelinka's machinations to build a strong roster around them. Davis strongly endorsed the signing of DeMarcus Cousins, his former teammate in New Orleans - and not just because Davis prefers to play as a power forward instead of a center.
''I like playing the 4,'' Davis said to a laughing coach Frank Vogel. ''I'm not even going to sugarcoat it. I don't like playing the 5, but if it comes down to it, Coach, I'll play the 5.''
Pelinka said the Lakers signed Cousins and re-signed JaVale McGee precisely so that Davis wouldn't wear down his body guarding centers.
Davis was asked about load management, and he dismissed it: ''I'm playing. I'm 26 years old. I love the game of basketball. I'm ready to play.''
Davis also waived a $4 million trade kicker in his contract so the Lakers would have cap room to take their failed run at Kawhi Leonard, a move that Pelinka praised as selfless.
''Anytime you're able to acquire a player like Kawhi, I think you have to do almost everything to get a guy like that,'' Davis said. ''It didn't work out for us, but I wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to help the team.''
Basketball-loving Los Angeles is still buzzing after its two teams were turned into immediate contenders during free agency, but they're hardly alone in a league that might have achieved a measure of parity after years of Golden State dominance.
While Leonard and Paul George landed with the Clippers, Davis and James are confident about the future ahead for the 16-time NBA champions, who are exponentially more beloved in their hometown than their local rivals. Davis has lived in Los Angeles during the offseason for several years, and he loves everything about it but the traffic.
''It's going to be fun,'' Davis said of the new-look league with its new crop of superstar pairings. ''I'm excited about it. I think the league has grown. I think it's better. (With) all the players teaming up and spreading that talent throughout the league, it's going to be a fun season. I like our roster. I like every player that we have, from one through 14.''
The Lakers have been the worst team in the NBA during their team-record six consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, but Davis and James expect to end those struggles and drought in the year ahead.
They're aiming for much more, too.
''I know we'll talk about it and do whatever we can to definitely make this team a championship team next season,'' Davis said, before correcting himself: ''This season.''
San Antonio Spurs guard Bryn Forbes (quad) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Utah Jazz. The team is going to be cautious here, especially with Forbes battling left quad soreness. Keldon Johnson will be asked to play significant minutes off the bench in Thursday's game. He'll be an interesting low-cost DFS option for Thursday's slate.
Dallas Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis (heel) has been downgraded to doubtful for Thursday's game against the Phoenix Suns. He was listed as questionable on Wednesday, but it sounds like the Mavs want to be cautious here. This game doesn't have any value in terms of playoff seeding, so the team will likely opt to rest Porzingis. Maximilian Kleber and Boban Marjanovic will see more playing time if Porzingis sits out. Both players are worth watching for DFS contests on Thursday.
Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura (quad) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Boston Celtics. He was a late scratch from the Wizards' bubble finale, but the team wants to be cautious with their young forward. Johnathan Williams is expected to draw the start with Moritz Wagner getting more minutes as well. Neither player is going to be trustworthy in DFS contests.
Washington Wizards guard Shabazz Napier (ankle) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Boston Celtics. He wasn't doing much damage when he was in the rotation, so this won't be a huge blow to the team. Troy Brown should draw the start with Ish Smith coming off the bench. Brown has struggled during the bubble, but is worth a look in DFS contests due to the fact he'll see significant playing time.
Sacramento Kings guard Kent Bazemore (calf) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Kings have been eliminated from the postseason, so they have no incentive to play Bazemore at less than 100 percent. Daquan Jeffries should see significant playing time, so he could be a low-cost DFS option for Thursday's slate.
Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry (leg) is listed as probable for Thursday's game against the Phoenix Suns. He has been dealing with right leg soreness for some time, but was upgraded from questionable. Curry is expected to be limited since he is still battling an injury. He'll be a risky DFS option, assuming he is restricted for Thursday's game. Trey Burke and Delon Wright could see increased playing time, but neither is worth a look in DFS contests.
Indiana Pacers guard/forward Justin Holiday was on a roll in Wednesday's matchup with the Rockets, finishing a 108-104 win with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting. He had a superb 4-for-8 record from downtown while adding six rebounds, two steals, one assist, and one block to his line. This was clearly Holidays' best performance since the restart and also one of his most productive games all season. He's been getting plenty of minutes in Orlando, but he had failed to make at least 30 percent of his shots in all of the previous games, so it's been a huge struggle for him.
Indiana Pacers shooting guard Victor Oladipo was awful on Wednesday against the Rockets, shooting 7-for-26 from the field, but he still ended up logging a game-high 37 minutes. It's the most he's played all season which is great news regarding his health, but he clearly needs to perform better if the Pacers are going to go anywhere in the playoffs. Oladipo finished with 16 points on Wednesday, going 2-for-12 from deep. He also had six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. The Pacers take on the Heat next against whom Oladipo had a 14-point performance in 28 minutes earlier in the week.
Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner became the latest big to shine against Houston, finishing Wednesday's 108-104 win with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He also had two assists, one block and one steal in 28 minutes of action. It actually wasn't a particularly good offensive night for Turner, with him going 5-for-14 from the field, but the 24-year-old was busy at the charity stripe and did a great job with 8-for-10 shooting. Turner will get a much tougher challenge next against Bam Adebayo and the Heat. The two teams already met at the start of the week and Turner was limited to nine points and seven boards.
Houston Rockets forward Robert Covington had 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks in Wednesday's loss to the Pacers, attempting all of his shots from three-point range and finishing with 3-for-8 shooting from the field. He spent 36 minutes on the floor which was by far the most by a Rocket. Covington's offensive performances have been inconsistent in Orlando, but he's a key guy for the Rockets defensively and could be the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs. Before the postseason starts, Covington gets a revenge game against the Sixers on Friday. He spent a productive four years in Philly before getting traded in November 2018.
Houston Rockets power forward Jeff Green missed all four of his attempts from downtown but still had a solid bench outing in a loss to Indiana, scoring 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting and adding three rebounds, one steal and one block to his line. Green has been a very useful pickup for Houston, and he's carved out a solid role for himself, even playing 30-plus minutes in back-to-back games. The veteran forward is hitting form just at the right time, with the playoffs starting next week.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden had a wonderful 45-point performance on Wednesday against the Pacers, shooting 13-for-21 from the field with a 7-for-14 record from downtown. He also tied his career high with 17 rebounds and dished out nine assists with six turnovers and three steals. The league's top scorer has been in great form in the seeding games, and he should be very motivated to finally register efficient post-season performances. The Rockets take on the Beard's former team OKC in the first round. Harden shot below 33 percent from the field in three regular-season games against them this season, so it looks like a difficult matchup for him.
Memphis Grizzlies power forward/center Brandon Clarke provided an excellent boost off the bench, but his club still fell short to the polished Celtics. Clarke scored 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting and added six rebounds and a block in his 29 minutes. Clarke has stepped with the injured Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) out and is posting 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists while shooting a sizzling 63.3% from the floor over his last three games. Keep him on your radar for Thursday as he has been quite reliable over this stretch.
Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas did all he could on Tuesday to try to help his club keep their postseason hopes alive, but it was not enough in the loss Boston. Valanciunas netted 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes but the big man was a minus-22 while on the floor. Gorgui Dieng also provided a solid spark off the bench with 10 points, five boards, and three steals and was actually a plus-seven in his 23 minutes. The Grizzlies have one last try to attempt to secure that their season resumes on Thursday and the Grizz will need their best out of JV in that one.
Memphis Grizzlies rookie guard Ja Morant brought his prime game on Tuesday as he exploded for a monster line, yet it was not enough in the loss to the Boston Celtics. Morant tallied 26 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the floor while connecting on 11 of 15 from the line. Morant also found his teammates by handing out 13 assists with four rebounds and two blocks with a steal for one of the lines of the night. We can assume Morant will have another high-usage outing on Thursday in hopes to keep his club's season alive against the Bucks, who we can assume will be resting many starters.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum continued his elite form on Tuesday in the win over the Grizzlies. Tatum shot an incredible 10 of 13 from the floor en route to 29 points in 29 minutes of action. The young stud did not stop there as he added six boards, two assists, and a steal while committing five turnovers. Tatum looks to be back to where he was before the break and he will be a force come the postseason. The Celtics go again on Thursday and we can assume Tatum will be limited it he does indeed suit up in that one.
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart looked great in 29 minutes off the bench as he scored 11 points and added nine assists in the win over the Grizzlies. Smart connected on 3-for-7 shooting from the floor and added three rebounds with a steal in this one. The Celtics are healthy entering the playoffs and Smart has been distributing the ball at an elite level over his last four games (7.3 assists a game in that span), which adds a whole new dimension to the Celtics already efficient offense. The Celtics close out the regular season on Thursday and stay tuned to see if Smart suits up in that one, or if he gets the night off.
Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker needed just 10 shots (making seven of them) to record 19 points in the win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Walker also nailed two triples to go along with four boards and three steals in the fine-tuning game for the Celtics. Walker and the Celtics take on the Wizards on Thursday to close out the regular season. If Walker does suit up in that one, we can assume he will play limited minutes to rest up for the postseason, so there will probably be better options out there.
Sacramento Kings power forward Nemanja Bjelica played a heavy 33 minutes and made the most of his time by filling up the box score in the six-point win over the Pelicans on Tuesday. Bjelica scored 13 points while adding five rebounds with two assists and two steals with a block. We know when the Serbian gets the minutes he will produce and this could be a similar case on Thursday in the meaningless season-ending game against the Lakers. Thursday is going to be a wild one in the DFS world but put Bjelica on your watchlist as we could see similar production from the big man.
Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes took on the extra workload with De'Aaron Fox sitting out this one. Barnes connected on 9-for-19 shooting en route to 25 points and added eight boards with two assists and two blocks without committing a single turnover in 37 minutes in the win over the Pelicans. We can assume Barnes will take on a similar role on Thursday in his club's season finale against the Lakers - add him to your watchlist, especially if the Kings decide to rest some players once again.