LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 37 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in one half of play as the Lakers rolled past the Warriors 123-101 in each team’s preseason opener on Saturday. But this wasn’t about stats. It was about a statement. Yes, we all understand it’s the preseason, and the opener at that, but LeBron and Davis were in midseason bully mode, pushing hard on the break, throwing alley-oops, running pinpoint pick and rolls, muscling through weaker defenders for drop-off finishes, put-back dunks and “get off me you little flea” and-ones.
All together now …
Again, pay no attention to the stat line or the final score. LeBron and A.D. looked like a duo ready to remind some folks of what’s real in the world when they easily could’ve just gone through the motions.
Davis took a lot of heat last season for the way he handled his eventual exit from New Orleans, where he was never able to lead the Pelicans to the kind of success that other superstars are expected to do for their teams. LeBron took a little shot on the chin missing the playoffs in his first season in the Western Conference, where you don’t just show up in May and waltz to the Finals. The Lakers have been an ongoing punchline, well, for a few years now.
Suffice it to say, the joke’s over. Not because of one half of one preseason game against a Golden State defense that looked about as tough as a screen door, but because Davis and LeBron are — newsflash — really great at basketball, and now they’re on the same team with something to prove. So good luck with that.
As the season goes on, it will be interesting to see how hard LeBron is able to play, or even feels like playing, on a nightly basis, most notably on the defensive end. We’ll see how Frank Vogel staggers his stars’ minutes and what sorts of lineups start to make sense as the chemistry develops. The same questions we’ve asked about this Lakers team still exist, of course. Can they shoot? Is their depth for real or just a bunch of old names that sound good like Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard? Can they defend at a top-10 level?
Those things that will determine whether the Lakers will be in the championship mix come May and June. But you know who else will have a large say in that? LeBron James and Anthony Davis? And from the very first second of the first preseason game, they let their voices be heard.