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Lakers know they need Anthony Davis despite winning without him

Lakers Anthony Davis is fouled by New York Knicks Mitchell Robinson in the first quarter at the Staples Center on Jan. 7.
Lakers Anthony Davis is fouled by New York Knicks Mitchell Robinson in the first quarter at the Staples Center on Jan. 7.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In their three games without Anthony Davis as he recovers from a bruised gluteus maximus, the Lakers have beaten the Dallas Mavericks, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It’s making Davis wonder …

“It looks like they don’t need me,” he said Tuesday morning with a smile.

That comment was relayed to coach Frank Vogel moments later.

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“This is L.A., you know everything I say will be quoted out of context,” Vogel said. “So I was gonna make a joke, but I’m not gonna joke because we definitely need Anthony Davis.”

He waited a beat.

“But we are undefeated this week without him.”

The lighthearted way in which they’re able to talk about the injury might feel like a blessing in comparison to what the Lakers all were thinking on the evening of Jan. 7. When Davis crashed to the court after a collision with Knicks forward Julius Randle, he seemed to be in the kind of pain that could knock a player out for months.

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Instead, Davis has been listed as questionable for every game he’s missed, and will be listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Orlando Magic. The Lakers will be without Rajon Rondo, too, who fractured his right ring finger on Saturday.

Initially, the thought of an injury that lasted for weeks or months crossed Davis’ mind.

“It was very painful,” he said. “Hard for me to walk obviously. It was pretty tough for me to just roll over on my back and on my side at the initial point of contact. It was tough. I didn’t want any speculation, but I was just praying that it wasn’t anything too serious.”

Dwight Howard’s 2013 split from the Lakers was acrimonious. The second time around has been surprisingly successful and refreshingly free of drama.

He was relieved once test results revealed that his injury didn’t involve a break or anything that would require surgery.

Davis says he feels much better than he did over the weekend, but he has yet to take any contact or to sprint. Once he does those things, he feels he will have a better idea of where his rehab stands. He might be able to do some of it at shoot-around on Wednesday morning.

“When I feel like I’m able to get back to my old self and do the moves I’ve always done and be successful at it, that’s when I’ll be able to get back on the floor,” Davis said.

Davis has been with the Lakers throughout his absence from the court. He traveled to Dallas and Oklahoma City, then took some teammates to Green Bay to see the Green Bay Packers play the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. Green Bay, Davis’ adopted team, won.

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A Chicago native, many close to Davis don’t understand why he’s a Packers fan.

“My dad pulls his hair out every day, trying to figure out how I’m a Packers fan,” Davis said.

Kyle Kuzma has started in Davis’ place. He scored 26 points against the Mavericks, 36 against the Thunder and 11 against the Cavaliers.

But it was the whole team effort that has most impressed Davis.

“The pace we’ve been playing offensively, the way we’ve been playing defensively,” Davis said, pointing out reserves Alex Caruso, Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels. “Guys have been stepping up. AC, QC, Troy has came in and played well every time he’s been able to be on the floor. Kuz taking a starting role and shining in it. We all know what he’s able to do. We have guys, where guys go down, everybody on this team is always ready to go. The way we’ve been able to win has been very impressive.”

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