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Leg injury could keep Lakers’ Anthony Davis sidelined until after the All-Star break

Lakers forward Anthony Davis warms up before a game.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis, warming up before a game, had an MRI exam Monday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Lakers will be without Anthony Davis, possibly through the All-Star break, as the team waits for his lower right leg to heal. But most importantly, there’s optimism that he will, in fact, heal.

Davis’ long, slow shuffle to the Lakers’ locker room Sunday during the second quarter of the team’s loss to the Denver Nuggets had some fearing the worst — a season-ending torn Achilles tendon, which would seriously impact the Lakers’ hopes of defending their NBA championship.

The team announced Monday that Davis did not rupture his Achilles tendon, saying he’d be reevaluated once he’s back in Los Angeles.

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He underwent an MRI exam on Monday in Denver before the team traveled to Minnesota ahead of Tuesday’s game, with the imaging showing a strain of his calf muscle. Davis also is dealing with Achilles tendonosis, an injury that kept him out of two games last week before he returned to action Friday against Memphis.

The plan is for the team and Davis to be conservative in his return from the injury. The Lakers have nine games before the midseason All-Star break, and a return to the court before then seems improbable.

Even before the severity of the injury was known, teammate LeBron James was advocating for patience.

“All I care about is his health. I want him to be healthy. Our team needs him to be healthy,” James said in a videoconference after Sunday’s game. “… No rush. No timetable. We have no idea from that aspect. We just want him to be healthy and get back to full strength.”

Davis reaggravated the Achilles injury in the second quarter Sunday night on a drive to the basket. As he moved past Denver center Nikola Jokic, Davis began limping before shooting two free throws and then hobbling off the floor.

“I think that last step kind of reaggravated the injury I already had,” he said after the game.

Kyle Kuzma started the third quarter in Davis’ place. By the end of the quarter, the Lakers’ 12-point deficit had ballooned to 18.

“Today was the first day where it felt completely fine,” Davis said Sunday. “Didn’t feel it at all this morning, afternoon, pregame, anything. So, it just felt like we were headed in the right direction on the treatment side, the rehab side — and you know, another setback.”

Davis said the Lakers’ initial examination left room for optimism that he had avoided the worst possible fate for his Achilles. But it’s been problematic enough to cost him time on two occasions this season.

“If I feel I can go out there and play, I will. Just for the simple fact that I want to be able to help my team. And I can help my team from the sidelines, but I think I’m more effective when I’m on the floor,” Davis said. “And they pay me to play. I go out there and try to compete at the highest level and do what I can to help this team. And so, if that means me going out there and playing through some minor bumps and bruises, then that’s what it is. But this one is a little different that I definitely have to be smart with.”

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Davis is averaging 22.5 points and 8.4 rebounds in 23 games. He’s missed five already with more now on the horizon. The Lakers have tough games with playoff contenders Brooklyn, Utah, Portland, Golden State and Phoenix before the break.

“You don’t want to mess around with this type of injury,” Davis said.

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When: 5 p.m. PST, Tuesday

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Update: Coach Frank Vogel could turn to Kuzma to start in the frontcourt in Davis’ spot, or he could tap veteran Markieff Morris. The Timberwolves just snapped a four-game losing streak against the Toronto Raptors with Karl-Anthony Towns getting back in rhythm after missing an extended period of time because he contracted COVID-19.


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