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Lakers star Anthony Davis out at least four weeks because of knee sprain

Lakers center Anthony Davis sustains a left knee sprain during a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

For all the awkward falls, the grimaced facial expressions, the limps and the times he needed to shake off pain, Anthony Davis was still mostly there.

Dogged throughout his career by a reputation for being injury prone that was strengthened by a lost 2020-21 season, Davis had been one of the few constants for the Lakers this season.

But that all changed Friday night in Minneapolis with two separate trips from the court to the locker room — including one dramatic scene in the second half in which Davis collapsed to the ground as he tried to limp to the tunnel.

After returning from a first-half ankle sprain, Davis went to the court after an opponent fell into the outside of his knee. And Saturday, after undergoing further testing in Chicago, the Lakers learned they would be without their star for at least the next month.

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An MRI examination revealed Davis suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee when the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels stumbled into him. The Lakers said he would be evaluated again by team doctors in about four weeks.

The injury comes with the team’s roster already significantly shortened by a COVID-19 outbreak. As of Saturday afternoon, Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley and Austin Reaves all remained in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Injured guard Kendrick Nunn also tested positive.

“It’s just craziness,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of his team’s situation. “There’s chaos. … But we’re not letting it impact us in terms of trying to win games. Like I said, no excuses, man.”

That was Davis’ hope for this season too after his injuries provided last season’s Lakers with a legitimate excuse.

Davis suffered an Achilles tendon injury and sat out 30 games in the middle of last season, the Lakers sliding all the way back to the NBA’s play-in tournament thanks to he and LeBron James missing significant time.

In the first round of the NBA playoffs, the Lakers led Phoenix 2-1 before Davis suffered an injured groin. The Suns won the next three games and would eventually make it to the NBA Finals.

“I didn’t feel comfortable missing that many games,” Davis said at media day before this season. “I’ve missed games in my career, but the Achilles, missing 30, not being able to play at full strength in the playoffs against Phoenix, didn’t play Game 5 — that didn’t sit well with me.

“So I made an emphasis on just taking care of my body and getting my body back to what it was as far as strength-wise in my first year here. And that’s what I put my biggest focus on this summer.”

Jason Kidd’s NBA career started in Dallas more than 25 years ago and the journeyman coach is “humbled” to get another chance to guide a team and compete for a title.

Davis has sat out only three games this season — one because of a non-COVID-19 illness and two because of soreness in that left knee.

“It’s the best ability, right? Availability?” Vogel said of Davis less than two weeks ago. “… I think it is directly tied to the amount of work he put in during the offseason. That was documented that it was a clear motivation point for him after the way last season ended to use the summer to strengthen his body to improve durability and his ability to get in there.”

Now, Davis will have to wait to be available again. If he sits out the next four weeks, Davis would miss 13 games.

Veteran Trevor Ariza could be close to returning from ankle surgery and would help the Lakers in the frontcourt. DeAndre Jordan and Howard, once he clears protocols, could also see expanded minutes.

The Lakers were without several players who are in COVID-19 protocols and lost another when Anthony Davis left injured in a 110-92 loss at Minnesota.

But Davis’ play at center is one of the key components to the Lakers’ roster construction, his versatility helping to add spacing with Russell Westbrook and James on the court. Now, the Lakers must again reconfigure things.

The news could be worse — a tear requiring season-ending surgery was avoided. But with lineups in constant flux because of NBA health and safety protocols, Davis’ absence will hurt even more beginning Sunday against the Chicago Bulls.

“We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We hope for the best for AD, you know? We want him in there. And he wants to be in there,” Vogel said. “And you hate to see any of your guys suffering injuries, but we always feel like we have enough to win. So we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves, not looking for excuses. And we have to have that mindset going into Chicago.”

LAKERS UP NEXT
AT CHICAGO

When: 5 p.m. Sunday PST
On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 1110, 1330
Update: The Bulls take the court for the first time in a week after having their season paused because of a COVID-19 outbreak. They’ll start guard DeMar DeRozan out of the protocols but will be playing without Zach LaVine. The Lakers will need to chart their course forward without Anthony Davis, who will miss at least four weeks because of a sprained knee ligament. Veteran guard Isaiah Thomas had a good showing in his debut and should continue to get an opportunity with a chunk of the team’s roster in the health and safety protocols.


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