If you’re a fan of the gold and purple, there’s a bit of good news in Tinsel Town. Anthony Davis could return to the Lakers’ lineup as early as this week after he successfully rehabbed a calf injury. Meanwhile, LeBron James is still at least two weeks away from being reevaluated after he suffered a gnarly ankle injury several weeks ago.
Davis hasn’t played since Valentine’s Day when he suffered an injury against the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers are 14-16 without Davis in the lineup.
LeBron last played for the Lakers a month ago when he suffered a severe ankle injury against the Atlanta Hawks on March 20. The Lakers are 7-9 since LeBron’s sprained ankle.
Overall, the Lakers (35-23) are holding onto the #5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Denver Nuggets overtook them to snag the #4 seed. However, the Nugs recently lost Jamal Murray to a season-ending knee injury. The Lakers have a chance to ladder up a spot in the playoff rankings once Davis returns to the lineup.
Even without LeBron and Davis, the Lakers have emerged as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They’re ranked #2 in scoring defense, allowing only 106.7 ppg this season. They’re also the fifth-best team at defending the 3-point shot by holding opponents to under 35% from beyond the arc.
Even without LeBron and Davis, the Lakers are the second-highest team on the NBA Futures board at +350 odds to defend their title and win consecutive championships.
AD Returns … Finally
Davis averaged 22.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game before the calf injury sidelined him for 30 games. The Lakers were initially vague, yet hopeful he could return in a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks turned into two months.
The Lakers believe Davis could suit up during either of the two games they play against the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers fly to Dallas to play the Mavs on Thursday and again on Saturday. That back-to-back series begins a quick four-game road trip for the Lakers.
“His ass better play, he’s been out all season long,” joked teammate Kyle Kuzma.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel the biggest thing holding Davis back right now is his conditioning. “He’s healthy. But having not played and not really being able to ramp up his physical on-court activity over the last two months, it’s going to take some time before he gets his wind under him.”
Leg strength is also vital, especially with a calf injury. Davis will see limited action if/when he returns against the Mavs.
“If his legs aren’t under him, we don’t want him to be at risk for reaggravation of the injury or another injury. We want to keep a close eye on that,” added Vogel.
Save LeBron for the Playoffs?
According to the LA Times, the Lakers haven’t issued any updates on LeBron’s return. LeBron averaged 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game for the Lakers before his ankle injury. After AD went down, LeBron was a one-man show once again. He didn’t look like a 36-year old veteran and often schooled younger players nearly half his age. It took a nasty ankle injury to finally slow LeBron down.
At this point, it’s foolish to rush LeBron back to the lineup. He’ll need a couple of games to get his conditioning back to peak form, but the Lakers are better off preserving their superstar until the postseason.
“It’s still light work on the court, but Bron is doing court work and progressing each day,” said Vogel. “He’s trying to do a little bit more with his activity each day.”
The Lakers came into this season as one of the favorites to defend their title. However, the Utah Jazz jumped out to a quick start, and the Lakers and Clippers found themselves chasing the Jazz for the #1 seed. The Phoenix Suns had a surge just before the All-Star Break and challenged the Lakers sans AD. The Suns’ winning ways continued after the break when they took command of the #2 seed.
The Clippers maintained their spot with the #3 seed, but the Lakers began to fall behind the Western Conference leaders once LeBron went down with the ankle injury.