Tuesday was the best day of the season for the Los Angeles Lakers. While LeBron James sat out with a sore right ankle, the combination of Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook helped spark the Lakers to a 125-121 overtime victory against the San Antonio Spurs. However, it very nearly became the worst day for LA, instead.
In the final minute of regulation, Davis bumped knees with an opponent while attempting to rebound a missed free throw. While AD seems to have avoided the worst, the Lakers were once again hit with a harsh reality regarding their talented but oft-injured star.
Anthony Davis is dealing with a stinger
Davis finished the game against San Antonio with 35 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocks. But the status of his knee was the more pressing issue following the game.
The 28-year-old referred to his injury as “a little stinger.” While he was OK to finish the game, scoring four points and pulling down four boards after the collision, he said he would see how he felt the next morning. Head coach Frank Vogel expressed something similar, reiterating he and the team would monitor Davis’ condition before making a decision before Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After missing 36 games last season and suffering an injury in the playoffs, AD spent this offseason committed to a new training regiment to improve his strength and durability. He told The Athletic his injury could have been worse if not for his intense summer training.
The Los Angeles Lakers must always worry about Davis
LA has every right to breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing AD’s self-diagnosis. But Tuesday was just another reason why no matter what, injuries will always be a cause for concern for their All-Star big man.
Davis has never been able to shake the injury tag because he’s never been able to stay healthy. In 10 seasons, the eight-time All-Star has played over 68 games twice. His second season with LA was cut in half following an Achilles injury and calf strain. He even admitted, shortly after inking a five-year, $190 million extension, a long-term deal was more appealing due to his “little history with injuries.”
To AD’s credit, he has never been one to shy away from toughing it out. That was evident during LA’s season-ending Game 6 loss to the Phoenix Suns when Davis started the game despite dealing with a significant groin strain.
“Every great competitor is going to be frustrated if they can’t be in there. But I think he’s shown an incredible amount of toughness the last two years with playing through injury,” Vogel told USA Today after his team was eliminated. “He’s a tough competitor that will play through stuff.”
It’s good LA knows it has a tough player willing to play through pain. But knowing there will be an issue seemingly more often than not is a troubling sign for the title-contending Lakers.
Could the Lakers survive without Anthony Davis?
It’s difficult to watch a Lakers game and not notice the number of times AD narrowly avoids a serious injury. Heck, Tuesday’s knee collision wasn’t even the only scary moment during the game, as the 6-foot-10 forward went up for a dunk and twisted his arm in a weird angle, immediately grabbing his shoulder. So if the worst-case scenario does ever occur, could the Lakers survive?
Losing AD could all but kiss any championship hopes goodbye. The Brow is LA’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, dominating on both ends on a nightly basis. Sure, the Lakers added Westbrook as a contingency plan for nights LeBron or Davis would need time off, but he would only be able to replace a fraction of what the big man brings to the court. As far as depth options, it would mean far more Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and DeAndre Jordan, which limits LA in multiple areas.
However, assuming LeBron is on the court and the rest of the roster is mostly in place, the Lakers could still be a playoff team. After all, with James and Davis both out for about a month last season, LA went 7-9 with a lineup that is completely gone. It wouldn’t be pretty, but the playoffs would still be within reach.
Obviously, the Lakers hope AD is healthy for all 82 games and a playoff run. But chances are, many more injury scares are on the way, and they need to be prepared for the worst each time.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.