The Los Angeles Lakers stumbled into this year’s playoffs as the No. 7 seed. In order to get there, they barely beat the Golden State Warriors in a play-in game – a Warriors squad that subsequently lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in their next outing and failed to make the postseason for the second straight year.
Although the Lakers are always dangerous by virtue of having both LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the roster, it’s tough to argue that the defending champs are hobbled this season.
They obviously could win a title, but the expectation is that they won’t. And you can begin to see that certain players simply don’t have the same hungry mentality they had last year.
Case in point: Davis.
This week, Davis spoke to the media and revealed his mindset heading into this year’s playoffs.
“I have nothing to prove to anyone,” said the Lakers star, per Kyle Good of the Daily News. “I don’t think I have anything to prove to myself; only being another champion. That’s really it. I want to be able to win multiple championships; this is another opportunity for me to do so.
“For our group, maybe you can add the challenge of being a seventh seed, but as far as trying to prove something to anyone else: I go out every day, compete, and let the chips fall where they may.”
— Game 7 (@game7__) May 21, 2021
Obviously Davis is right about already being a champion, but it’s hard not to take note of the lack of hunger seemingly emanating from him these days. It was apparent when he came into the season so out of shape that even a member of the Warriors called him out for it, and it’s pretty clear now.
This has been a rough year for the defending champs. James is dealing with a particularly rough injury, the prognosis of which isn’t great. Distractions have arisen that have forced the NBA to intervene. And even players within the organization have admitted to chemistry flaws that, to date at least, have seemingly gone largely unaddressed.
None of that means the Lakers won’t beat the Phoenix Suns in their first round match-up and go on to repeat in 2021, but it definitely makes it seem like the path to a second straight chip will be much harder than anyone anticipated.