AD: LeBron and I can still be core of title team

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DENVER — Anthony Davis thinks he and LeBron James can still be the core of a title team moving forward despite two straight disappointing seasons following their championship in 2020.

“I think us two can. We’ve shown that we can,” Davis said, conducting a season-wrap news conference before the Los Angeles Lakers played their final game of the season on Sunday. “I don’t know that’s something we just have to reevaluate in the offseason, upstairs, me and him talking about this season and what we would like to see next season and kind of just figure it out.

“… [We will] come together as a group … to get back to championship mentality that we had our first year. So that would be a very interesting conversation just from the standpoint of what changed. I mean, injuries, but even when we were healthy, I don’t think we were able to reach our full potential — for whatever reason. So I think we want to figure it out and just get back to that championship pedigree that us as players know we’re capable of.”

L.A. beat the Denver Nuggets 146-141 in overtime to finish the season 33-49 — the 22nd-best record in a 30-team league after the Lakers came into training camp as one of the Las Vegas favorites to win the NBA championship. Davis played in just 40 games because of knee and foot injuries, including 21 of L.A.’s final 24 games after the All-Star break. The Lakers stumbled to the finish line, going 6-18 in that stretch.

Davis said that surgery on his right midfoot sprain was never an option but added he could undergo an MRI on the injury this week.

“Taking however much time off and then coming back and getting back after it and getting ready for next season,” he said.

Davis performed better than the 2020-21 campaign, when he seemed spent from the Lakers’ extended run to the championship in the NBA bubble. He upped his points (from 21.8 to 23.2), shooting rate (49.1% to 53.2%), rebounds (7.9 to 9.9) and blocks (1.6 to 2.3) this season, but Davis wasn’t available enough to change L.A.’s fortunes.

With Davis missing so much time and James also being sidelined for 26 games because of various injuries of his own, the Lakers never got a good look at what Davis, James and Russell Westbrook could be as a trio. They only appeared in 21 games together as a group, going 11-10. They were only 20-33 in games when two out of the three of them played together.

“To not log enough minutes together is what hurt us,” Davis said. “I still think us being on the floor together where [there is only] two out of three can win basketball games; it just didn’t happen.”

Davis, who signed off on the Lakers’ acquisition of Westbrook when the front office overhauled the roster to trade with the Washington Wizards for the services of the 2017 league MVP, said the point guard shouldered too much of the blame in what was a nightmarish campaign.

“Russ isn’t a one-man show,” Davis said. “He can’t beat teams by himself. It’s all of us. It’s my play, me not being on the floor. Bron’s play, him not being on the floor. … Everybody. Coaches. Everybody’s a part of the blame. … Russ, it wasn’t his fault.”

Davis did acknowledge, however, that Westbrook seemed to be searching for a version of his game that he displayed in past stops with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Wizards — a version L.A. wasn’t asking for.

“We necessarily didn’t need that this year,” Davis said. “When I got here, I didn’t play the same way I played with Bron. Bron had to change; everybody had to change. Everybody had to make sacrifices. It was tough for [Westbrook] to adjust to that.”

Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony also spoke to reporters ahead of Monday’s scheduled exit interviews and said the team never stopped believing in its championship potential until it was officially eliminated from postseason contention earlier this week. Coming up so short of their goal, Anthony said organization-wide reflection is in store.

“I think the truth starts with the individual,” Anthony said. “Each individual has to look themselves in the mirror and say what happened, what they could’ve done better, what could we have done better. And I think once you start with each individual, I think slowly you’ll get to the answer. … You have to face yourself first. Then everybody just needs to be held accountable. We were all a part of this. It wasn’t just the coaches. It wasn’t just the players. We all were a part of this. And I think as whole, we should all feel and take accountability for things not going our way.”

Anthony, who will be a free agent this summer, was noncommittal about his future with the Lakers.

“This was another chapter for me,” Anthony said, looking back on the season. “I can say I’ve experienced it. … I can finally check the box — played with Bron. Played with AD. We had, on paper — we were phenomenal on paper. Me, personally, I had a good year, personally. Just as far as happiness and being able to go out there and compete and being able to do my part, play my part on this team.

“There were good days, there were bad days, but we got through it, and I got through it.”

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