The Lakers are off to a terrific 20-3 start, and seemingly in the thick of the hunt for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. All-Star power forward Anthony Davis has been making an early case for some hardware all his own: the Defensive Player of the Year award. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin spoke with Davis about the prospect.
“A couple of years ago, I feel like I should have won it,” Davis told McMenamin, who notes that Davis finished third to Jazz center Rudy Gobert in 2017/18. The Lakers big man has made three All-Defensive teams.
“I think he can and will win Defensive Player of the Year this year,” McMenamin cites Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as saying on Davis earlier in the week. “There’s no one in the league like him defensively in terms of being able to guard all positions, protect the rim the way he does and deflect the basketball,” Vogel said.
Bench point guard Rajon Rondo noted his own high confidence in Davis, with whom he has played on both the Pelicans and Lakers. “I got him as MVP and Defensive Player of the Year,” Rondo said.
There’s more out of Los Angeles:
- Following a year of negotiations, the Clippers‘ proposed new 18,500-seat Inglewood arena has just been given a fast-tracked green light by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Jason Henry of The Orange County Register reports. Now that CARB has ruled that the new arena will not yield a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the $1.2 billion project should be ready in time for the 2024/25 NBA season. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to stand by CARB’s decision and approve the project. Owner Steve Ballmer has long been pushing to move his team to its own arena and away from the Staples Center, located in downtown LA.
- Clippers forward Maurice Harkless has been making his own impressive defensive impact, albeit on a smaller scale than Anthony Davis. The versatile, 6’7″ forward takes pride in guarding multiple positions, as Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register observes. The Clippers landed Harkless and his expiring $11MM contract as part of the four-team sign-and-trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Heat. Head coach Doc Rivers tells Swanson that Harkless’ defensive range even surprised the seasoned coach. Before the season tipped off, “I thought he was gonna be a defender on the bigs, like the fours and the threes,” Rivers said. “But what’s surprised me is his ability to guard ones and twos.”
- The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor tweets that the Lakers and Bucks (each 20-3) are both currently on pace to win at least 70 games a quarter of the way through the 2019/20 NBA season. O’Connor mentions that this marks just the fourth time in the last 40 years that a team in each conference has been on such a lofty trajectory at this point in the year. In each of the last three instances, one of the teams on this win pace wound up an NBA Finals champ.