Feeling ‘100% healthy,’ Anthony Davis plans to play for Lakers on Thursday night
NBA contenders are seeing their best players show up on injury reports with tight tendons and strained muscles, but the Lakers are pulling a superstar off theirs.
Davis went through a full practice Wednesday, and provided he responds positively overnight, he plans to be on the court for the first time since Feb. 14. He’s missed the last 30 games with calf and Achilles injuries suffered in a loss at Denver.
“I felt something I had never felt before as far as pain. That’s how I knew it was probably something serious,” Davis said. “So I just wanted to make sure it was 100 percent when I came back. I don’t want to have to go through this over and over for the rest of the season, let alone for the rest of my career. So I wanted to make sure that I was coming back 100 percent because it wouldn’t be fair to myself, it wouldn’t be fair to my team. It feels good.”
The Lakers went 14-16 without Davis, and played without LeBron James and Davis for the last 16 games. James still is recovering from his high ankle sprain, recently going through light on-court work. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said there’s no target date for James to return.
In the meantime, Davis will return in a limited basis, restricted to 15 minutes in his first game back. Vogel said the minutes restriction isn’t expected to last long.
“We’re going to continue to fight. I mean, obviously [James is] a big focal point of our team. But we’re going to have to be able to make up for that load,” Davis said. “The guys have done a great job of making sure that we stay in the fight while LeBron and myself have been out. And now that I’m near return — I think he probably has a couple weeks or so I’m guessing — it’s going to be my job to try to help the team stay afloat until he comes back as well and stay fighting. But this team has done more than we can ask for.”
Talen Horton-Tucker never stopped attacking during the Lakers’ loss to the Utah Jazz, showcasing how much he’s developed since the start of the season.
Vogel said the plan is for Davis to start Thursday if he’s able to play. That would give the Lakers coach his first look at his new frontcourt, Davis and Andre Drummond sharing the court as Lakers for the first time.
“I think that stuff takes time,” Vogel said. “It’s going to happen mostly in games for us, unfortunately. There are going to be some speedbumps along the way. We expect that. But I think them having a little bit of a relationship with USA basketball, and AD playing with Dwight and JaVale last year in our system will make him very familiar to Drum’s role, Andre’s role. And obviously, Andre will have to get used to playing alongside AD in our system.
“This is one of those things that’s going to take time, but two great players that you know we’ll figure it out on the fly.”
Minus Davis, the Lakers still have had the second-best defense in the NBA, but have struggled to score. Only Houston, Cleveland, Orlando and Oklahoma City have been less efficient on offense since Feb. 15.
But the Lakers are in fifth with a bit of a cushion from a potential spot in the play-in tournament (seeds seven through 10). Having Davis around should help.
“I feel 100 percent healthy. I feel great. … A lot of guys around the league aren’t healthy. A lot of teams aren’t healthy,” Davis said. “And for us to, for the most part, [to] be healthy, I’m getting back to 100 percent healthy, well, I am 100 percent healthy, and then we got ‘Bron who is coming back as well who is going to be 100 percent healthy. I think we put ourself in a good position.”
Lakers travel restrictions
Vogel said Wednesday his team and traveling staff have not reached an 85 percent threshold for vaccination from COVID-19.
“I don’t really want to comment any further on what percent of our guys have been vaccinated. I don’t believe we’re near the 85 percent [mark],” Vogel said.
Teams with at least 85 percent vaccination are subject to an easing of health and safety protocols, including more flexibility to leave team hotels, the ability to dine indoors and have meals served on all flights. Teams also can waive mask mandates at practice facility and can hold meetings in smaller spaces other than ballrooms or on court.
Individual players who have been vaccinated also have lessened rules, most notably including no quarantine period after being exposed to COVID-19.
When: Thursday, 6:30 p.m. PDT.
On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, TNT; Radio: 710, 1330.
Update: The Lakers get a huge boost with the return of Davis, assuming Davis responds well physically to his return to practice. They face the Mavericks for a two-game series in Dallas, with the defense getting tested by Luka Doncic, one of the NBA’s premier offensive talents.
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