If the 2021-22 season wasn’t disappointing enough for the Los Angeles Lakers, the team was dealt another huge blow. Star forward Anthony Davis suffered a badly sprained right ankle in Wednesday’s win over the Utah Jazz.
With the expectation of the injury keeping Davis out for multiple weeks, the situation places the franchise into an even more challenging position to make the playoffs. Beyond that, Davis’ absence pushes LeBron James into a precarious spot that could lead to a disappointing outcome.
Lakers suffer tough blow with Anthony Davis’ ankle injury
The Lakers grabbed a much-needed win overthe Jazz led by an impressive performance from James, but it came at a crushing cost.
The contest featured Davis suffering a sprained right ankle after landing on Rudy Gobert’s leg. The eight-time All-Star needed help off the court and into the locker room due to being unable to place any weight on his right foot.
Davis left Crypto.com Arena at halftime using crutches to move around while x-rays returned negative. After the contest, James voiced that he hopes that Davis will have a smooth recovery.
“Obviously it’s sickening to see AD go down in that fashion,” James said via ESPN. “I hope he’s fine. Obviously, I mean, I know he’s not like, great, but obviously his health is most important for him individually, for our ballclub. I’ve seen [teammates get injured] too many times, obviously. So I just wish him the best.”
The 28-year-old entered the 2021-22 campaign hoping to finally shake his injury struggles, but he’s missed 21 out of the team’s first 58 regular-season games. That features sitting out 17 consecutive contests due to a sprained MCL in his left knee.
The Lakers are heading into a nine-day layoff due to the All-Star break, lessening the blow of Davis’ expected extended absence. Beyond that, the Lakers may have dodged a huge bullet.
Anthony Davis’ ankle injury forces LeBron James to dangerously push it to the limit
As the Lakers await the MRI results on Davis’ ankle, the team is prepared for an extended absence.
Regardless of the severity, Los Angeles will err on the precautionary side to avoid setbacks, especially with only 24 regular-season games left. That will mean that the Lakers will lean more heavily upon LeBron James to guide them forward.
James already isn’t at full strength as he’s dealing with lingering knee issues that recently forced him to miss five games. What makes matters more concerning is that he compared the ailment to the right high ankle sprain he suffered last season that forced him to miss 20 straight contests.
“It’s the same as my ankle when I had the ankle sprain last year,” James said via Lakers Nation. “The only way to get back to full strength is rest and I don’t have the luxury of having rest so we’ll have to wait until the offseason.”
Despite that, James poured out an impressive performance in Wednesday’s comeback win against the Jazz. He recorded 33 points, extending his career-best stretch to 23 straight games with at least 25 points, tying Elgin Baylor for the Lakers’ all-time mark.
James will experience instances where he may need a game off to allow his knee to better cooperate with him. Nonetheless, the Lakers are relying heavily on their star forward to continue fending off Father Time in his 19th year.
Those parameters could easily make it a recipe for disaster leading to James experiencing additional injury problems. However, as he pointed out, he doesn’t hold the luxury of giving himself the necessary time to let his knee recuperate until the summer.
Simply put, James and the Lakers are stuck between a rock and a hard place until Davis returns.
Russell Westbrook’s time to shine is now
Anthony Davis’ injury means more pressure placed on LeBron James and a greater spotlight on Russell Westbrook.
The nine-time All-Star’s struggles in a Lakers’ uniform are well documented, but his team needs him to be a more significant factor offensively as a scorer and passer. Westbrook hasn’t shied away from the pressure, but his performance the last few weeks made it quite clear the trade deadline rumors were weighing on him mentally.
The former league MVP must step into the spot as the definitive No. 2 scoring option through his ability to change the pace and get to the rim. The increased offensive role will provide him more freedom to spread his wings with the ball more in his hands.
After Wednesday’s game, Westbrook touched on the importance of picking up the slack with David sidelined.
“It’s been like this all year,” Westbrook said via Michael Corvo of ClutchPoints. “The most important part is AD is healthy and his spirits are right. And hopefully it’s not that bad and he’ll be back. But until then, we have to hold it down.”
With 24 regular-season games left, the Lakers sit six games behind the Denver Nuggets for the sixth spot in the Western Conference standings. They are also only four games ahead of the 11th seeded New Orleans Pelicans for the play-in tournament.
In other words, Los Angeles possesses little margin for error, and their other two stars must lead the charge.