The Los Angeles Lakers have ventured through half of the season without star big man Anthony Davis due to injuries. Davis hasn’t shaken the health issues that will likely require him to go through another significant change to improve his durability.
Nonetheless, the star forward is working his way back toward helping his team push toward the playoffs. Davis may finally have a target return date that should excite Lakers fans.
Lakers are showing some hopeful progress
Despite falling to a tough loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night without LeBron James, the Lakers may be building some encouraging momentum.
Los Angeles has split its last four games, but their effort and performance have notably improved. Russell Westbrook has been at the forefront, averaging 22.0 points, 9.3 assists, 8.5 rebounds while shooting 52.2% from the floor and 47.6 from beyond the arc.
That may be a small sample size, but Westbrook is playing with more confidence and efficiency. Beyond that, the star point guard believes he and his teammates are finding their roles.
“I think the most important part is guys are kind of sliding into their roles a little bit better and learning,” Westbrook said via Lakers Nation. “I know it’s the end of the year, but I think guys are doing a better job of having some confidence and keeping it and being able to make mistakes and play through them and keep a positive energy, which I thought was good tonight. A lot of guys collectively left it all out on the floor against a really good team at full strength and we had a chance to win the game.”
The Lakers’ recent collective push alleviates some pressure off James’ shoulders. Los Angeles showcased offensive balance without James against the 76ers behind four players scoring 20-plus points while the team shot 51.5% from the floor.
As the Lakers push toward the play-in tournament, Anthony Davis could soon be back in the fold.
Anthony Davis’ long-awaited return is exactly what the Lakers need
Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have ventured without Anthony Davis due to his right mid-foot sprain that he suffered against the Utah Jazz.
Los Angeles has struggled to find consistency holding a 4-11 record in Davis’ latest absence, falling further down the standings toward the fate of participating in the play-in tournament. However, the 29-year-old is making some progressive recovery by first shedding his walking boot then taking part in set shooting drills last week that have warranted recent optimistic remarks from head coach Frank Vogel.
ESPN‘s Dave McMenamin is reporting that Davis is on track toward potentially making his return in the first week of April.
“If everything continues to progress well in Davis’ rehab, the All-Star big man could be suiting up for games by the first week of April, at the earliest, sources told ESPN,” McMenamin wrote.
The Lakers will likely err toward caution given Davis’s injury history, but the star forward is making notable progress. He’s missed roughly over a month and would be just past the six-week mark for his recovery timeframe.
Los Angeles is missing his presence on both ends of the floor, as he’s been the anchor defensively while serving as a primary scoring option. More importantly, the team has lacked any true rim protection outside of Dwight Howard. When healthy, he’s one of the game’s best talents and has showcased his game-changing ability to lift the Lakers toward sustained success.
As the anticipated return timetable inches closer, the Lakers will have a clearer picture of Davis’ health status. Nonetheless, the latest report signals that the eight-time All-Star is nearing his return before the play-in tournament.
Lakers need to build on recent momentum
The Lakers’ backs are against the wall with nine regular-season games left, holding no wiggle room to fall to another skid.
Sunday’s matchup against the 10th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans is a significant game and another opportunity for Los Angeles to build on their recent upward trend. LeBron James should be back after a much-needed extended stretch to rest.
Davis’s return will significantly boost the Lakers’ playoff push, but what now sits ahead is the defining stretch of the season. Los Angeles isn’t in the spot they want to be but hold a chance to reach the playoffs.
The pressure will either bring out the best in them or see them fold.