The Los Angeles Lakers are now sitting at an even .500 on the season after last night's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. They've gone 3-5 since LeBron James hit the bench with an abdominal injury, and are 4-6 on the year when LeBron sits. It is not surprising the Lakers are struggling without their superstar; that was expected. But even with all the noted flaws on this roster, one would assume they'd be a little better than this.
That's because the Lakers still have Anthony Davis. Davis is regularly heralded as one of the best superstars in the game today and even earned a place on the NBA's Top 75 of All-Time list due to his outstanding career to this point. He is supposed to be a singular star who not only takes the load off LeBron in the long haul but keeps the Lakers steady in The King's absence. Davis has been entirely unable to do that.
The problem isn't necessarily his counting numbers. In this last stretch of eight games sans LeBron, Davis has averaged 22.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists to go along with 1.3 steals and 1.8 blocks per contest. That's an impressive statline and one that conjures up memories of Davis' time in New Orleans as a two-way force to be reckoned with. The problem is that he just hasn't risen to the occasion when called.
Out of the Lakers' five losses in the last eight games, three were by double-digits. Two of those double-digit losses came to the Blazers and Timberwolves, who currently reside in the back half of the Western Conference standings. One loss, a three-point defeat at the hands of the very young and very bad Oklahoma City Thunder, was the result of a blown 19-point lead.
Now, these are team losses. Davis shouldn't shoulder the entire blame. But a superstar like Davis is supposed to elevate their game in order to avoid those kinds of losses. Even if it's early in the year and the roster is still getting accustomed to playing with each other, there's no excuse for a player of Davis' stature to let his team down like this.
But that's always been the thing with Davis. He puts up impressive-looking numbers and, for small stretches, takes over games and looks like the generational big man he was heralded as when he was drafted. But by and large, he either cannot or does not take over games when it's crunch-time. It's part of the reason why the Pelicans never won anything of note with Davis as the centerpiece. It's why his partnership with LeBron works so well. LeBron will dominate the ball with the game on the line, while Davis fills in all the gaps at a very high level. That works great when LeBron is on the floor, as seen by the pair's championship run in the bubble. But when LeBron is missing time, Davis doesn't seem like he can adjust.
It isn't really a problem for the Lakers because LeBron should be back soon. But Davis can't escape the criticism coming his way for needing another star to win games at a decent clip.