Lakers’ Ed Davis showing consistency on defense, finishing

The images replay over and over again. But like a summer blockbuster that relies heavily on special effects, the action never becomes too boring to watch.

Lakers backup center Ed Davis leaps through the lane with gravity-defying dunks and easy finishes at the basket. Davis also appears to jump off a trampoline when he swats away shots that his opponents throw at the basket. This has happened with so much frequency that Davis leads the Lakers both in field-goal percentage (71.4 percent) and ranks second in the NBA in blocked shots (2.3 per night).

Not a bad audition tape for Davis, who is competing for the backup center position against Robert Sacre. Not a bad message to show the Lakers that he is worthy of a role after signing this offseason to a two-year, $2 million deal. Not a bad effort in showing he could thrive after spending a five-year NBA career with Toronto and Memphis struggling to find a consistent role.

“I’m just playing hard every night,” Davis said. “The NBA is a long year with injuries and guys going down. With trades, you never know what’s going to happen. So you always just have to be ready. That’s what I do. I’m going to be ready every night, if I play 10 minutes or 20 minutes. I’m
going to be ready.”

Lakers coach Byron Scott maintains he will not decide on who takes that role until the team’s season opener next Tuesday against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. After all, Robert Sacre started at center in the Lakers’ 94-86 preseason win on Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers in Ontario while Jordan Hill sat out with neck pain.

Scott has praised Sacre’s outside shooting after posting 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. But Scott revealed earlier in training camp that he will award the backup center position toward whoever thrives the most on defense.

Davis has vastly fulfilled that job description in different ways.

“The thing he gives us is protect the rim,” Scott said. “He’s a good shot blocker, defender and scores around the basket enough. He gets the shots and rebounds the ball as well. He gives us a different dimension.”

Davis sure does.

He often runs a pick-and-roll at the top of the key with Jeremy Lin, and either one or two things happen. Lin finds an opening to attack the basket or enough space to attempt a jumper. Or Davis will have all the room in the world inside either to throw down a well-placed lob or an easy basket close to the rim.

“They’re all easy baskets. Jeremy is really finding me,” said Davis, who has averaged 6.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and two blocks through six preseason games. “I stand at the time and he passes to me. I’m just finishing.”

Davis is rarely allowing opponents to finish on him, though. Against Portland, Davis blocked two shots on consecutive attempts. He hustles on every play. For a team that has just started showing more promise on defense, Davis has become a consistent presence in ensuring that improvement.

“I just play hard every time out there, whether it be 10 minutes or 20 minutes out there. I bring the energy on defense and hustle,” Davis said. “I think the coaching staff knows what I can do, bring to the table and help the team.”

Soon enough, Davis will find out whether that’s enough to become the Lakers’ backup center. If he does, it will prove hard not to watch.


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