Playing for a title contender, Lakers’ Anthony Davis can show Chicago how far he’s come

Chicago News

Anthony Davis lets his family handle the details when he goes home to Chicago.

How many tickets will he need? His parents will figure that out.

What family and friends might he see? They usually plan something at the house or visit Davis in his hotel.

Whatever the plan, his family will just let him know what they’ve scheduled.

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He has enough on his mind, especially on this particular trip. This year as he returns to face the Bulls in his hometown of Chicago, Davis, for the first time in his career, is playing for a championship contender in the Lakers.

“When you got to come in and play each and every game like it’s a championship game, it makes the game more fun for me,” said the forward, who played his first seven seasons with New Orleans before the Lakers acquired him in a trade this summer. “It makes the game more fun for everyone, knowing that we’re getting everyone’s best shot.”

Davis comes into his hometown game with his team on a five-game winning streak and off an individually stellar three-game stretch that earned him player of the week honors for the Western Conference. The last Laker to earn that distinction was Kobe Bryant during the 2012-13 season. Davis averaged 32 points, 13 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and two assists in wins over Memphis, Dallas and San Antonio — all while managing shoulder soreness.

Davis, 26, wasn’t interested in playing along when asked whether there was a friendly competition between him and teammate LeBron James for those player of the week honors. James pooh-poohed the idea too, though less severely.

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“No, man,” James said. “You see his numbers? And we’re 3-0 for the week?”

But he seemed more interested in a friendly competition the longer he talked.

“When did the week, this week just started?” James said playfully. “ … Starting over now? OK, I got some things to do.”

The truth is, while James and Davis aren’t competing with each other, they are pushing each other. For Davis, that has sometimes meant challenging James on the defensive end.

“I just want him to be able to get back to old ‘Bron,” Davis said. “He’s a hell of a defender, and in the past couple games, he’s been able to play great defense.”

That role is a big leap from where Davis began his basketball journey. Growing up in Chicago, playing basketball for a tiny high school without a gym, Davis idolized James and devoured any information he could find about him.

But when he entered the NBA following one college season at Kentucky, his reverence for players he worshiped growing up took a backseat to his curiosity. Getting to know players such as James and Bryant, starting with their time together on the U.S. team at the 2012 London Olympics, Davis tried to learn as much as possible.

“I’m excited to learn more about the game, maybe that’s it. … I want to get better,” Davis said. “You can’t try to become a better player on and off the floor and be nervous to learn from other guys who’ve done it before you.”

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Davis has kept that curiosity even now as one of the NBA’s best players. On the Lakers, he’s surrounded by players who have even more experience in the league.

“Playing alongside ‘Bron and Danny [Green] and Avery [Bradley] — [Rajon] Rondo, again — I’m continually learning things from them,” Davis said. “Those guys have been in the league for a while, have won multiple championships between those guys. That’s my goal, to try to win one as well. And the more I can learn from them guys and the more I help my game, the more I can help the team.”

It’s never been as reachable a goal for Davis as it is this season.

Playing in Chicago has always meant something special for him.

“It’s amazing,” Davis said. “… The first couple years, I wasn’t able to play because I was always hurt. So to go back home and play in front of friends and family is always a huge thing for me.”

On Tuesday night, he’ll be able to show his hometown just how far he’s come.

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