LAS VEGAS — LeBron James sat on a podium, barely damp after being rushed through the postgame champagne celebration after winning the Most Valuable Player award in the NBA’s season-opener on Saturday. He placed the cup on his left. Sitting to his right was the guy who made the hardware possible, the guy who quite frankly outplayed him in the 123-109 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
Despite 41 points, 20 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks from Anthony Davis — forcing Indiana’s Myles Turner to foul while defending the Los Angeles Lakers’ big man’s relentless attacks in the paint — James and Davis didn’t have Any problem in the pecking order.
“I know who I am, and he knows who he is,” James told ESPN when asked about his partnership with Davis in his fifth season, which is longer than his collaborations with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami or with Kyrie Irving and Kevin. Love in Cleveland. “So, there’s no friction. We’re not trying to compete with each other on the field or based on lifestyle. He knows who he is, and I know who I am.”
“The one thing we try to do is hold each other accountable when we get down to business and try to be the best we can be for each other, and when things don’t go well, we try to help each other out. There’s no jealousy. There is not a jealous bone in our bodies. We are never jealous of each other. never.”
While James continues to push the limits of a player’s abilities in his 21st season – posting 24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in the playoff spot – it has not come at the expense of Davis’ development.
If anything, James has done his best to support Davis, calling the 30-year-old “the face of the franchise” to ESPN at the start of training camp and continuing to put the 12-year veteran in positions to succeed.
That carried over to Las Vegas, where James and the Lakers fed Davis early and often — he went 6-for-10 in the first quarter, just the second time this season when he attempted 10 or more shots in a quarter — and continued to go for it, Davis said. all night long.
“He’ll say things like, ‘Let’s get to work.’ ‘Or run this for em,'” Davis said. “He does a good job of making sure I get the touches I need to have the opportunity to take over ball plays like tonight. So, he has been there for me through the ups, downs and indifference. He was always a man I could count on. Who could I count on for advice, or he just knew.
“He just knows me… I got that look tonight and he said, ‘I’ll follow your lead.’ “He was able to do that, and the team was able to let me be the guy and feed off of him.”
Lakers backup center Christian Wood, who signed with Los Angeles to a veteran contract at least in part because of Davis’ recruiting efforts, said Davis asked for his chance.
“AD, I think, was at level one and moved to level three,” Wood told ESPN. “He told me before the game: ‘This is Game 7 for me, and I’m going to show you what Game 7 looks like.’” I’d never been in one before, so I said, “Okay, show me.” He went out there and got 40 and 20. That’s unbelievable.
The win was the Lakers’ 12th in their last 16 games, moving them up to fifth in the Western Conference standings.
The Lakers have not been shy about their drive to win a championship outside of competition. The $500,000 cash prize for each player on the winning team was something James prioritized, knowing it represented an opportunity a far cry from his tough upbringing in Akron, Ohio.
“We played for bragging rights,” James told ESPN of his childhood pick-up games. “I didn’t have money to play for money growing up.”
James said he woke up Saturday morning determined to finish the job against the Pacers.
“I’m going for it,” he said. “Yes, why not? Why not? One match? Me and one match, I’ll have it. Sure.”
It was another feather in the cap for James and Davies, who combined to win the 2020 title in their first season together and have now secured their first Championship title of the season.
Davis said he knows his enhanced resume will not make him immune to future criticism. He attracts scrutiny, it seems, no matter what he does.
James’s confidence in him, and his team’s continued belief in him, has allowed him to develop a thicker skin.
“I don’t give a f—ness?” “Yes, I did,” Davis told ESPN when asked about his outlook. “And I don’t [care]. As long as my team wins and I’m with my teammates in the locker room, that’s all that matters to me. Anyone else’s opinions don’t matter to me. I mean it sincerely. I’m not interested.”
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