Anthony Davis led the way as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers continued their fine form with a 120-102 win over James Harden's Houston Rockets.

Davis, who sat out on Friday due to a groin strain, returned to score 27 points in Sunday's victory against the Rockets in Houston.

LeBron James posted 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as the Lakers won for the sixth time in seven games.

"[Tonight] was just A.D. being A.D. and just having him back in the line-up gives us a whole other dynamic both offensively and defensively," James said after the Lakers led by as many as 27 points.

Former MVP Harden finished with 20 points, while Rockets team-mate Christian Wood had 23 of his own.

It was a feisty game in Houston, where the Lakers' Markieff Morris and Rockets big man DeMarcus Cousins were both ejected in the opening half, while there were also five technical fouls and two flagrant fouls.

Kawhi Leonard reached a milestone after the Los Angeles Clippers held on to beat the Chicago Bulls 130-127.

Clippers star Leonard put up a season-high 35 points, including seven three-pointers, four assists and three steals to reach 10,000 career points.

Paul George contributed 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for the Clippers, who snapped a run of back-to-back losses.

The Bulls were led by Zach LaVine's season-high 45 points away to the Clippers in Los Angeles.


Durant stars on return

Back on the court following a three-game absence, Kevin Durant scored 36 points and collected 11 rebounds, but the slumping Brooklyn Nets still lost 129-116 at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander inspired the Thunder with 31 points.

Julius Randle's double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds was not enough to lift the New York Knicks, who went down 114-89 to the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic (22 points and 10 rebounds) propelled the Nuggets with a double-double of his own.


Curry struggles

While the Golden State Warriors trumped the struggling Toronto Raptors 106-105, Stephen Curry was uncharacteristically poor. Curry was just two-of-16 from the field, while he made only one of his 10 three-point attempts for 11 points in 38 minutes.


LeBron, the sniper!

James produced a moment of magic to unleash Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with a stunning left-handed pass from deep.

Sunday's results

Utah Jazz 96-86 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Clippers 130-127 Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder 129-116 Brooklyn Nets
Denver Nuggets 114-89 New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers 120-102 Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves 96-88 San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors 106-105 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat-Boston Celtics (postponed)


76ers at Hawks

The high-flying Philadelphia 76ers (7-3) visit the Atlanta Hawks (4-5) on Monday. Doc Rivers and the 76ers are set to welcome back All-Star Joel Embiid, but Ben Simmons is expected to miss out after a depleted Philadelphia side – ravaged by coronavirus and injuries – lost to the Nuggets.

Anthony Davis says there is trust among the Los Angeles Lakers regardless of whether he or LeBron James are making plays late in games after the NBA champions rallied past the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers made it a clean sweep of four straight wins on the road thanks to a 94-92 triumph in Memphis, backing up a victory against the Grizzlies and two against the San Antonio Spurs.

James and Davis each finished with 26 points, but it was down the stretch where the superstar duo really came to the fore. Trailing by two with five minutes to go, they combined for a 9-2 run and an 86-81 lead.

Together they put on 15 points late in the fourth to make it 92-83 with a little over 30 seconds remaining, while the last basket was James assisting Davis for a dunk.

Describing their chemistry late in games, Davis said: "When you got playmakers and scorers on the floor, it's very easy for us. 

"We don't like to use the term, like you said, 'flip the switch'. We want our switch to be on at all times, but it's good to have guys who can make plays for us, especially late in game at both ends of the floor. 

"It starts with LJ and his ability to pass the ball and read defences is unreal, his I.Q. is very high. We usually have the ball in his hands. 

"Even when we don't have it, we know late game whoever it's going to - whether it's his hands or my hands – we're going to live with that, whether we make shots or miss shots we're going live with us making the plays for us or for others."

Davis is in his second season playing alongside the legendary James, who also had 11 rebounds and seven assists to his name in another influential showing.

For Davis, there are no surprises about the levels James continues to show at the age of 36.  

"It's not surprising at all, he's been doing this now for 18 years, it's crazy to see he's doing it in his 18th year but the numbers he puts up is not surprising," he added. 

"It's testament to the player he is - practice, shootaround, pregame, he's constantly getting his body ready to go out there and put up those kind of numbers you know from rebounds to assists or scoring. 

"But also, things that don't show up on a stats sheet, leadership, getting guys ready to learn offensive and defensive schemes we have, hence he's one of the greatest to ever do it, if not the greatest. 

"It's good to be a witness to that in my second year, to see how he continues to put on a show for us, night in and night out. It surprises no one on this team, he's been doing it night in and night out and it seems like it's getting easier for him."

James was asked about the Lakers' first experience of the road this season during a global pandemic.

"It's what it is, we're here to work, get better and to win," he replied. 

"We're in a winning business, that's what we want to do, we want to create great habits, we're going to have times when we don't play to our capabilities but we still want to create great habits going forward, that's what I think we did on this road trip."

LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers team-mates were left disheartened upon hearing Kenosha County District Attorney announced no charges are to be filed against the police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a black man who was left paralysed.

Blake was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer on August 23 last year as he leaned into his car in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In response, several professional sports teams refused to play scheduled matches and, in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

That subsequently led to all NBA games on August 26 being postponed, while there were further boycotts in Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Many NBA stars, including James, were vocal from the Orlando bubble in their campaigning against racial injustice, and several Lakers players expressed their dismay following Tuesday's confirmation none of the officers at the scene will face criminal charges.

Speaking after the Lakers' 94-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, James said: "To hear what happened in Kenosha today was a blow to the heart and to the gut, not only to that community but to us and to every, I guess, black person that has been a part of this process and seeing these outcomes for so long.

"And not only in the black community but in the white community as well, who see moments like this happen to us, to happen to his family, to happen to [Blake] himself. But we've got to continue to stay strong, continue to believe in each other and continue to push for the greater change and the greater good."

Wesley Matthews, now at the Lakers, was a part of the Bucks side that refused to play against the Magic back in August and was left similarly frustrated by the latest developments but urged the public to not lose heart.

"Truly, it's disheartening," he added. "It's just about right and wrong, but it can't deter those citizens who are trying to do right, who are trying to fight for equality, who are trying to fight for the right things.

"It can't deter us, we can't lose our heads, we can't start rioting, we have to be calculated, we have to continue to keep our foot on the pedal, we have to continue to keep our foot on the gas.

"These are lives right here. It's upsetting as a Wisconsinite. It's upsetting as a human being that justice isn't justice. It's tough. But it can't knock us off our path that we're trying to get to, which is equality and just simply right and wrong."

Anthony Davis said he was left with a sense of failure but will "continue to push the needle for change".

"Obviously it sucks, we as a community try to support the family and try to do everything we can to get justice for him, for that to happen, it sucks," he said. "It's like we let the family down. We continue to honour Jacob Blake and his family, we continue to push the needle for change, it's not going to stop us by playing basketball."

LeBron James recognised the Los Angeles Lakers have to do a better job of finding Anthony Davis following Monday's 115-107 reverse to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Davis returned from a one-game absence as a result of a calf injury and had a quiet night, putting up just 13 points.

Only two of those came from 17 minutes in the first half and James said it is the team's duty to get Davis involved.

"We always gotta do a better job of finding him, looking for him, that's on us," he said.

Head coach Frank Vogel concurred, saying: "We didn't do a good enough job making sure he was involved in the offense in the first half. 

"It was a little bit better in the second half, it was one of those nights, we were kind of stuck in mud a little bit.

"I've got to make sure I get him the ball in opportunities where he can be aggressive."

Davis offered an update on his calf and said he has to show more aggression to score points.

"The calf is feeling good," he said.

"I gotta score the ball, simple as that. Obviously I was trying to make plays, find rhythm with the team. 

"I tried to find my rhythm back into the system, but gotta be more aggressive, go out and score the basketball, simple as that do whatever it takes to win the game."

James finished the game with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists and felt the only difference between the teams was how they finished their plays.

"Both teams just settled in, I knew we were playing a very good team, knew it wouldn't be a blowout, both teams settled in and it came down to execution," he said.

It was a team effort from the Trailblazers, with Damian Lillard putting up 31 points - 21 of which came in an inspired second half - while CJ McCollum had 20 points and 11 assists, and Gary Trent Jr matched his career high seven three-pointers as part of his 28 points.

"It makes us just a little bit more confident to be coming on the road and continuing to grow, continuing to build on our effort," Lillard said. 

"We're just getting more comfortable with each other, and we're bringing our energy."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis will sit out Sunday's NBA showdown with the Minnesota Timberwolves due to a right calf contusion.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said Davis suffered the injury in the opening-night loss to city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers before re-aggravating the problem in the Christmas Day triumph over the Dallas Mavericks.

"Well, we just want to be responsible with it," Vogel told reporters after the Lakers' morning shootaround on Sunday. "We want to keep an eye on it."

Davis has been averaging 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists through the first two games of the season for defending champions the Lakers (1-1).

"We want to take advantage of our depth and be intelligent with this injury," Vogel said of Davis.

Following a brief offseason after the Lakers clinched their first title in 10 years in October, Vogel said the team have no set policy regarding Davis and LeBron James in back-to-back games this term.

"We're going to approach each one throughout the whole year on a case-by-case basis," Vogel said. "And with the expectation that our guys will play both games, unless there is a reason otherwise.

"In this case, there is a reason otherwise with Anthony's calf. We'll just continue to evaluate that throughout the year."

Lakers superstar James is averaging 22.0 points, 7.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game.

LeBron James is confident his ankle injury is not serious after playing in a season opener that he struggled to process for NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

Just 72 days on from wrapping up a 4-2 Final series triumph over the Miami Heat in the Orlando bubble, the Lakers had their ring ceremony before falling to a 116-109 loss to city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.

Superstar James had 22 points from only 28 minutes after turning his ankle in the second half of the contest.

James expects to play on Christmas Day against the Dallas Mavericks, explaining: "I turned it pretty good but I don't think it's going to stop me from playing Friday.

"I have a couple of days, you know what I'm like about treatment, I do that around the clock. I think I should be fine."

The 35-year-old explained a rather novel way of helping his ankle recover, adding with a laugh: "I'll go home and have dinner right now, I'll ice it and I'll drink some wine that will flow straight to the ankle.

"I'll make sure I drink on the left side of my body so it goes down to my left leg right down to my ankle!"

The delay to the 2019-20 season caused by the coronavirus pandemic has had a knock-on effect for this campaign, which has been shortened to a 72-game regular season.

For James, it was tough to comprehend returning to the court so soon after a gruelling end to the championship run.

"The day is over with, I'm very happy with what we were able to accomplish and I'm excited to move on to the next day. It felt weird even having a basketball game today," he added.

"It's not the fact it's starting over, it's the fact it's starting already. I've always had a routine how I prepare going into a season after a Finals run, or a playoffs run knowing the kind of time I have to prepare for my body, for my mind.

"There was so much uncertainty of when we're going to start the season, is it going to be December? Early December? Christmas? January?

"Then boom, December 1 training camp, first game of the season is happening on December 22. It was just a lot, I can't lie to you it was just too much to grasp. We're here now, happy today is over, but it's just a lot to process."

Team-mate Anthony Davis – who put up 18 points – won his first championship ring as a result of the Lakers' triumph, something he will "cherish forever", but he also stated how tough it is physically and mentally to be playing again so soon.

"I think it's both, physically just from a standpoint of trying to get your body ready for the season," Davis said.

"After the game me and Bron were like, 'I can't believe we just played a basketball game'.

"The mental part, mentally being here, with a short offseason, just one or two months ago, then you had to wrap your head around we had to play tonight and play again Friday. It can get to some guys but the good thing is we have a very good team."

The Los Angeles Clippers claimed early bragging rights over the Los Angeles Lakers after upstaging the defending champions 116-109 on the opening night of the NBA season.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard led the way as the Clippers took down city rivals the Lakers behind closed doors in Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday.

George fuelled the Clippers with 33 points, including 26 in the second half, while star team-mate Leonard added 26 points of his own.

LeBron James top-scored with 22 points as the Lakers' title defence started on a losing note, despite double-doubles from recruits Dennis Schroder (14 points and 12 rebounds) and Montrezl Harrell (17 points and 10 rebounds) – who left the Clippers via free agency.

Lakers star Anthony Davis finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in the season-opening defeat.

The Lakers, who unveiled their championship rings pre-game, were coming off the shortest offseason in NBA history after ending the franchise's 10-year wait for a title inside the Orlando bubble on October 11.

Frank Vogel's Lakers were slow out the blocks and the Tyronn Lue-led Clippers – who parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers at the end of 2019-20 – took advantage.

The Clippers raced out to a 22-point lead after outscoring the Lakers 39-19 in the opening quarter, though the latter eventually worked their way back into the contest.

However, it was too little too late as the Clippers – who sensationally surrendered a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in last season's Western Conference semi-finals – ushered in the Lue era in style.

The Los Angeles Lakers set the benchmark last season and look likely to be the NBA team to beat again in 2020-21.

An outstanding offseason saw the Lakers bring in Marc Gasol, Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell to boost a championship team.

Anthony Davis is coming back, too, as expected, aiming to build on a hugely successful first year in LA.

Crucially, fellow superstar LeBron James also agreed a new contract, ensuring the coming campaign's title defence will not be impacted by speculation around the veteran's future.

James was back to his best in 2019-20 as he led the Lakers to Finals glory and earned his fourth Finals MVP award.

He became only the fourth player to claim that honour after his 35th birthday - joining fellow greats Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan - and the first across the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL to be named the star performer of the postseason with three different teams.

There are plenty more milestones on the horizon for the former Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat man, however.

The draining nature of the previous season may mean LeBron sees less regular season action than he normally would; indeed, his 34.6 minutes per game last time out were already a career low and the Lakers have recruited the league's best two bench scorers in Schroder and Harrell.

But James has already proven just how effective he can be while managing minutes, that average of 34.6 the fewest in league history while scoring 25.0 points and 10.0 assists.

The 35-year-old, who turns 36 next week, has every chance of reaching 10,000 career assists before the coming season is out.

His 10.2 per game last term, taking on a new role next to Davis, were the most of LeBron's career, yet he has laid on more than the 654 required for the landmark in two of his past three campaigns.

James needs 125 more threes for 2,000, meanwhile, having made 148 last year. He would become the 10th player all-time to reach that mark.

Of course, between his playmaking and scoring, LeBron is still regularly posting triple-doubles - at least eight in four straight seasons, including 13 in 2019-20 and a career-high 18 in 2017-18.

Another six are required for 100 in his regular season career.

But James might have to make the most of the length of his contract, which runs through 2022-23, to make any further progress on the all-time points list.

He surpassed Michael Jordan in his first year as a Laker and then LA great Kobe Bryant last season, reaching third behind Karl Malone (36,928) and Abdul-Jabbar (38,387).

LeBron (34,241) is 2,687 shy of Malone, a total he has never previously come close to in a single campaign - top-scoring in 2005-06 with 2,478.

Do not write James off, though, bolstered by the Lakers' impressive moves and fired by his frustration at missing out on the MVP award last year. He responded spectacularly to that setback and will be gunning for honours again this time.

Los Angeles Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis made their NBA preseason bows in Wednesday's win over the Phoenix Suns.

James and Davis sat out the opening two preseason fixtures against city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers after leading the Lakers to their first NBA championship in 10 years in October.

But James and Davis geared up for opening night – December 22 against the Clippers – by taking to the court in the 112-107 victory in Phoenix midweek.

James posted 11 points, two rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes, while star team-mate Davis had 10 points and four rebounds in 18 minutes of action as Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with 23 points.

"We anticipated a little bit rusty first stretch and I thought that played out," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said of James post-game.

"Once he got his legs underneath him, I think he settled in and looked great.

"I think it was anticipated and as I anticipated and it’s going to be a matter of getting his legs back under him again."

Lakers superstar James earned his fourth Finals MVP in 2019-20, becoming the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP with three different teams, having also received the honour with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat, per Stats Perform.

Last season, James appeared in 67 games and averaged 25.3 points, a career-best and league-leading 10.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per games, while he averaged 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the playoffs.

Davis and James became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to each have 500-plus points and 200-plus rebounds in the same postseason as the Lakers reigned supreme.

The first overall pick in 2012 by the New Orleans Pelicans, Davis averaged 26.1 points in the Lakers' title-winning campaign – the most by any team-mate of James' when appearing in at least 70 per cent of games.

Davis became the fifth player in league history to shoot 50-40-90 in the NBA Finals (.571 field goal percentage, .421 three-point percentage and .938 free-throw percentage), joining Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson.

Reflecting on his return against the Suns, Davis – who is fresh off signing a five-year contracted – said: "I felt great, honestly.

"Coming in I thought I'd be a little winded. You can try to get in shape all you want, but there's nothing like getting into basketball shape, in game shape.

"I was kind of hesitant about that, but I felt fine. I could have played more. Probably going to play more Friday, but I felt physically fine."

Los Angeles Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis will take to the court for the first time in preseason on Wednesday.

James and Davis sat out the opening two preseason fixtures against city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers after leading the Lakers to their first NBA championship in 10 years in October.

But Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said James and Davis will make their preseason bows in the midweek clash with the Phoenix Suns.

"I do plan on playing AD and LeBron some first-half minutes, but just to kind of get their feet wet," Vogel told reporters on Tuesday.

The Lakers start their title defence against Kawhi Leonard's Clippers on December 22 and Vogel added: "I just want to see them go out and try to get a rhythm. Get comfortable with some of their new team-mates and try to get their legs under them a little bit.

"We've been trying to intentionally every day monitor the amount of work put on those guys after the shortest offseason in history, and that will be no different with these next two preseason games."

Both James and Davis signed contract extensions after helping end the Lakers' title drought last season.

James agreed a two-year, $85million deal, while Davis reportedly signed a five-year contract worth $190m after opting out of the final year of his previous agreement – making him a free agent.

Davis and James became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to each have 500-plus points and 200-plus rebounds in the same postseason.

The first overall pick in 2012 by the New Orleans Pelicans, Davis averaged 26.1 points in the Lakers' title-winning campaign – the most by any team-mate of James' when appearing in at least 70 per cent of games.

Davis became the fifth player in league history to shoot 50-40-90 in the NBA Finals (.571 field goal percentage, .421 three-point percentage and .938 free-throw percentage), joining Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson.

James earned his fourth Finals MVP, becoming the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP with three different teams, having also received the honour with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Heat, per Stats Perform.

Last season, James appeared in 67 games and averaged 25.3 points, a career-best and league-leading 10.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per games, while he averaged 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the playoffs.

One of six players in NBA history to average 25 points and 10 assists in a single season, James earned a league-record 13th All-NBA First Team selection, while being selected as an All-Star for the 16th time in his career.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis will miss the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason opener against the Clippers on Friday.

The Lakers continue their preparations for the 2020-21 season with a clash against the Clippers, just 61 days after winning the championship.

With three more preseason games to follow before they begin their campaign proper against the Clippers on December 22, the Lakers will be without their two stars on Friday.

"Anthony and LeBron will not play and some of the new guys are still to be determined," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Thursday.

"We haven't made final decisions on which guys are going to play which games other than Anthony and LeBron will not play tomorrow."

After facing the Clippers again on Sunday, the Lakers will meet the Phoenix Suns twice prior to their season opener.

Vogel is unfazed about the result on Friday, saying he wanted his team to build fitness.

"For me, it's really just about our guys getting some opportunities to grow their conditioning, to get used to the game environment of no fans in the building, in an arena," he said.

"And, for our guys to get their feet wet in terms of the habits that we're trying to build in training camp.

"It really isn't about winning or losing, especially this early on in the preseason, it's about getting everybody the right opportunities, enough work but not too much work and that's what's going to be a successful game for me."

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said LeBron James and Anthony Davis are unlikely to play in the team's preseason opener.

The Lakers will begin their preparations for the 2020-21 NBA season when they face city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, just 61 days after winning their first championship in 10 years – a triumph inspired by superstar duo James and Davis.

After a brief offseason, the Lakers will start their title defence against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers on December 22, with James already stating the franchise will be "very conscientious" with their approach.

"We haven't made that decision yet, but I will say it's probably unlikely that they play," Vogel told reporters on Tuesday.

It will be the first of four preseason games for the Lakers, who face the Clippers again on Sunday before road fixtures against the Phoenix Suns on December 16 and 18.

Both James and Davis signed contract extensions after helping end the Lakers' title drought last season.

James agreed a two-year, $85million deal, while Davis reportedly signed a five-year contract worth $190m after opting out of the final year of his previous agreement – making him a free agent.

Davis and James became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to each have 500-plus points and 200-plus rebounds in the same postseason.

The first overall pick in 2012 by the New Orleans Pelicans, Davis averaged 26.1 points in the Lakers' title-winning campaign – the most by any team-mate of James' when appearing in at least 70 per cent of games.

Davis' numbers rose in the playoffs too, the 27-year-old averaging 27.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists as the Lakers lifted the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

He became the fifth player in league history to shoot 50-40-90 in the NBA Finals (.571 field goal percentage, .421 three-point percentage and .938 free-throw percentage), joining Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson.

"I just want to make sure I'm good to go," Davis said. "I don't want to rush into anything. We've seen, unfortunately, how football went with no preseason, shorter season, and a lot of injuries happen.

"You don't kind of want that same thing. So I'm going build up the right way. Coach has been doing a great job of doing that with our team, building up the right way."

"I feel good, body feels good, but at the same time I got to make sure the people around me, my training staff, my trainer, training staff, coaches, also be in my ear like, 'AD, calm down,'" Davis added.

"I've been great doing practice. I've been in every drill, being in condition and getting back into the swing of things, but like I said, you want to be smart about it as well."

Frank Vogel said the Los Angeles Lakers were "lucky" to have LeBron James and Anthony Davis after the pair re-signed.

James and Davis have agreed to new contracts with the Lakers ahead of the 2020-21 NBA season after helping the team win the championship in October.

Vogel believes the Lakers are fortunate to have the duo, who were both All-Stars last season.

"Those two guys are the cornerstones of our franchise and everything is going to be built around them. Similar to the way we structured things last year," the Lakers head coach told reporters.

"That's the way it's going to be going forward. We are extremely grateful and lucky to have those guys with our team, to lead our team for years going forward.

"Those two guys are going to be pillars for us."

After his arrival from the New Orleans Pelicans ahead of 2019-20, Davis became the highest scoring team-mate of James' career – averaging 26.1 points per game.

Only James Harden and Russell Westbrook at the Houston Rockets (61.5) and Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum at the Portland Trail Blazers (52.2) averaged more points per game last season than James and Davis. Both Houston and Portland lost to the Lakers in the postseason.

Davis, who has agreed to a deal reportedly worth $190million over five years, said his goal for 2020-21 was to win another title.

"It's really hard for me to set goals like MVP and DPOY [Defensive Player of the Year]. I just kind of let that fall into place," he said.

"If I go out there and play the way I'm supposed to and up to my potential, those things just happen. The goal is winning another championship, my goal is to be on the floor as much as possible and not get injured.

"Some little things I love to set goals for myself. I don't aim for MVP or DPOY, if it comes it comes. It's more so just staying on the floor with my history of injuries.

"Those type of things I set goals for myself and doing whatever I can do to help the team win."

The Lakers will begin their season against the Los Angeles Clippers on December 22.

Jared Dudley is backing Anthony Davis to be NBA MVP in the 2020-21 season after securing a new contract with champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

Davis followed superstar team-mate LeBron James this week by agreeing to fresh terms in Los Angeles, the seven-time All Star having signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $190million.

The Lakers won their first championship since 2010 last year in the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort, defeating the Miami Heat 4-2 in the Finals.

Davis averaged 27.7 points in the postseason, placing him seventh in the overall standings and above James and MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Overall, he became the highest-scoring team-mate of James' career, averaging 26.1 points per game in his first year in LA following his trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.

The 27-year-old finished sixth in the voting last season and has never placed higher than third, but team-mate Dudley expects him to be primed to chase personal accolades.

"I'm expecting AD to go for the MVP," the Lakers forward said. "I'm expecting him to set the tone.

"We know [LeBron James], his years playing this league, the accolades he has, but AD doesn't have some of the accolades. He has the talent, he has the determination. He's the future and he's the now."

With Davis, James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tied down to new deals and smart recruitment in the form of Dennis Schroder and former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, the Lakers have enjoyed one of the strongest offseasons.

Markieff Morris summed up the importance of the Lakers' business, saying: "We're led by the best player in the world, and then the second-best player in the world. Or 1A and 1B, however you want to do it."

Kyle Kuzma, whose own future remains uncertain, admits the success of last season has left him eager for more.

"It's a very good time for those guys," said Kuzma, the Lakers' top-scoring player off the bench last season with 11.4 per game. "Both very deserving.

"Obviously, bringing home championship number 17, those guys deserve it. They're helluva players obviously, don't need to keep repeating that. I'm very happy for those guys.

"I think [winning the championship] just puts more confidence under your belt. At the end of the day, you're a winner and that's something that no one can ever take from you. Especially being a part of it, being a key piece, it kind of just motivates you in a different type of light, you know.

"Especially going from you know, let's say you don't make the playoffs and your season ends early and you're motivated because you want to get into the playoffs. It's kind of the same thing winning the championship. You want to win more, you want to win and you just want to be successful and that's what it's brought."

He added on discussions over his own contract: "We've talked. It's obviously just talk between my agent and the organisation, they are working through things. We'll see."

Philadelphia 76ers recruit Dwight Howard believes Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can click like the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA championship-winning duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Howard will play in Philadelphia in 2020-21 after teaming up with superstar pair James and Davis to help the Lakers to NBA glory last season.

Veteran big man Howard will now try to guide the 76ers to their first championship since 1983, combining with another All-Star duo – Embiid and Simmons.

Much has been said about franchise pillars Embiid and Simmons, and their compatibility as the 76ers prepare for life under new head coach Doc Rivers, who replaced Brett Brown following a first-round sweep at the hands of Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics in 2019-20.

Eight-time All-Star Howard has advice for Embiid and Simmons, telling reporters on Thursday: "I've been in that situation multiple times, going to a team that has another star — Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, L.A., D.C. — playing alongside other stars.

"Sometimes it can be difficult because you want to be that guy, and watching AD and LeBron, everything they did was together.

"They worked out together, they ate together, they rode bikes together. We called them the brothers. They were always playing together — playing video games, doing something. … Ben and Joel, they have to be that way.

"They have to know each other so much on and off the court that when they're playing, it's just natural. 'OK, I know Jo needs a touch right now, let me get him an easy bucket'. 'Ah, Ben is frustrated, let me set a screen for him, get him a couple dunks, couple shots at the rim just to get him going'.

"Once you're willing to give yourself up, great things tend to happen for you. … I can see that in Ben and Jo. Those two guys together, putting aside any ego, pride or anything, and saying, 'Hey, we're both for one mission, and that's to win a championship, and it starts and finishes with us two'.

"And I saw that with LeBron and AD. They put everything on their shoulders. They knew they had guys around them but it was, 'OK, LeBron. OK, AD. We've gotta do this, it starts with us. We've gotta be on the same page at all times'. And they did a really good job of it."

When Embiid and Simmons play, the 76ers boast a 119-65 win-loss record, per Stats Perform. But without one or both, they greatly suffer (67-94), Embiid's physicality in the paint and Simmons' superior defensive skills vital in Philadelphia.

The 76ers average 111.7 points, 107.5 opposition points, 47.4 rebounds and 26.4 assists per game with Embiid and Simmons involved, a clear improvement compared to when one or both miss a game – 106.7 points, 109.4 opposition points, 44.5 rebounds and 25.0 assists.

Philadelphia also have a superior field goal percentage (46.9) when Embiid and Simmons both play, with the 76ers shooting just 45.3 per cent without one or both. Opposition numbers also go up in their absence – field goal percentage (44.3 to 46.2) and three-point percentage (34.1 to 35.5).

"Playing alongside Jo and Ben, I think for me it's just giving them a sense that they can do anything," he said. "For Joel, it's just pushing him every single day to know that he's the best, and every time he steps on the floor he has to be the best player on the floor — whether that be practice, in the weight room, in the training room, during all the games. It's 'I'm the best player on the floor. I'm going to show it through my actions on offense and defense'.

"For me, it's really just cleaning up their mistakes, pushing them to be the best and just providing them with knowledge through my experiences. I see so much potential in Ben and Jo that I just want to see them succeed.

"I see so much potential out of those two — what they can bring to a team, the championships that they can have — just all the blessings they can get from playing this great game of basketball. I really just want to be that person to help push them toward their greatness."

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