Anthony Davis has said the Los Angeles Lakers will find extra motivation from having a target on their backs as the NBA champions prepare for a quick turnaround between clinching the title and their pre-season opener.
After finishing off Miami Heat in the NBA Finals on October 11 after a Covid-19 pandemic-extended season, the Lakers face the Los Angeles Clippers next Friday to launch the pre-season, with about six weeks less rest than usual.
"It's hard in a quick turnaround to play at a high level to compete for a title again but I think we have the players and staff to do so," Davis said Friday in an internet news conference.
"As a champion, you're going to get everyone's best shot. You have a target on your back. You're going to find that motivation.
"We have a bunch of new guys who want to win a championship. I think we'll be fine in that sense."
The 27-year-old power forward signed a five-year deal worth $190 million to remain with the Lakers, who also agreed a new contract witb superstar LeBron James, who turns 36 on December 30, to a two-year extension worth $85m that keeps him in LA through the 2022-23 campaign.
"I was excited for him. It's a hell of a deal," Davis said. "To be getting that type of money going into your 18th year [in the NBA], it just doesn't happen.
"I'm happy to be playing along with him for three years and I'm not sure he's going to be done after that."
Davis has been nagged by ankle, shoulder and knee injuries over eight NBA campaigns, seven with New Orleans before joining the Lakers last year, so he and James might see limited early action.
"We're going to talk with the trainers and the coaching staff and see what the best way is to approach it," Davis said.
"It is a quick turnaround. We have to make sure our bodies are ready so we're able to repeat. We have to get our rest but at the same time be ready to go out there and compete."
While Lakers forward Jared Dudley declares, "I'm expecting AD to go for the MVP" this season, Davis is more concerned with staying healthy than any individual awards.
"It's hard for me to set goals, I just kind of let that happen," Davis said. "My goal is to be on the floor as much as possible and not get injured. It's more like that and doing what I can to help the team win."
Davis did plenty of that last season, averaging 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocked shots and 1.5 steals a game for the Lakers while shooting 50.3 per cent from the floor and 33% from 3-point range.
He raised his scoring, rebounding and assist averages during the Lakers' triumphant playoff run in the Orlando playoff bubble, but the upcoming season will be played at home arenas and the greater risk of Covid-19 that brings even without spectators.
"We didn't have to worry about Covid so much. That's one thing I do miss," Davis said. "With the travel and the hotels, you never know if they are doing what they are supposed to do."
The Lakers have added such talent as Germany's Dennis Schroder and Spain's Marc Gasol to revamp the supporting cast for Davis and James this season, particularly on the defensive side.
"I think we added great defensive players. It's going to help our team tremendously," Davis said. "We're going to be great defensively this year... That's why we're going to repeat."