After an incredibly rough start to the 2022-23 NBA season under new head coach Darvin Ham, it was doom and gloom for the Los Angeles Lakers, with many writing off the storied franchise. The team struggled to play consistently well, and the consensus was that the once-dominant squad in Los Angeles was quickly headed for a rebuilding process next summer.
As if things weren't bad enough for the Purple and Gold, the Lakers lost superstar LeBron James to a groin injury. The same injury ended James' first season in Los Angeles, which was a serious cause for concern.
Although James remains out and on the mend, the Lakers have been rolling, with Anthony Davis seemingly turning back the clock. Not since the bubble season, in which the Lakers won it all has Davis played at this level. Mainly, that's been due to persistent injury problems, but even when he's been healthy, he hasn't looked the same.
That is no longer the case.
Davis has been virtually unstoppable over the past three games, all of which have resulted in wins for the 17-time NBA champions. He is currently averaging his highest point total (25.6) since his first year with the Lakers and his highest rebounding average (12.0) since the 2018-19 season when he was with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Many began questioning Davis' heart and desire with the Lakers struggling to start the 2022-23 campaign. That seems to have resulted in a different mindset taken by the 29-year-old, which is beginning to pay off for a team that desperately needed to turn things around.
The Lakers are now sitting at 5-10, which is still awful, but things are trending in the right direction. Despite being in second to last place in the Western Conference ahead of the lowly Houston Rockets (3-14), there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel, especially considering they'll play the San Antonio Spurs two more times this week after facing the division rival Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
Davis has proven to be the catalyst for this team, but he isn't alone when it comes to who deserves the credit for the team starting to show some promise. Second-year guard Austin Reaves has also stepped up, as he's excelled as a starter as of late and is coming off a season-high 21-point performance against the Spurs.
Russell Westbrook also deserves some praise for the Lakers' recent resurgence. Even though he still makes questionable decisions at times, especially in late-game situations, Westbrook seems like an entirely different player compared to the one every Lakers fan wanted to send packing.
There's no doubt the Lakers are on to something, with Davis leading the charge, but the competition hasn't exactly been top-notch or anything to brag about beating. The Spurs are tanking with their sights set on Victor Wembanyama, and the Detroit Pistons are also in the mix for the French phenom. Getting the best of Kevin Durant's Brooklyn Nets made headlines, but it's not like that team has been firing on all cylinders yet.
The real test for the rejuvenated squad will be on Tuesday night in the first game of a three-game road trip. With or without James, who is currently listed as questionable, Davis and company will take on the division-leading Suns in Phoenix.
The Suns are sporting a record of 10-6 and sit only behind the Utah Jazz (12-6) in the Western Conference. Devin Booker and his squad will pose quite a challenge for the Lakers, but if Los Angeles comes out on top with another solid performance from Davis, this team may finally be back on the right track.