According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, Anthony Davis is expected to return tonight against the Dallas Mavericks, which will be his first NBA game since February 14, due to a calf strain and Achilles tendinosis.
It was also per McMenamin three days ago that Lakers coach Frank Vogel said that Davis’ return would be very limited.
“Even when Anthony returns, it’ll be in short, limited minutes,” Vogel acknowledged. “We’re still in a stretch where we’ve got to compete and win games for the most part without those guys.”
Those guys, of course, referring to Davis and LeBron James.
Davis, a trendy MVP and or Defensive Player of the Year pick heading into this season, has been limited to just 23 appearances and, statistically, was having a lesser year than his first go ’round with the Lakers last season. Davis’ ’19-’20 line of 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game dropped to 22.5, 8.4, 3.0, 1.8, and 1.3 in less than two fewer minutes per contest. Unfortunately for Davis, he was also stymied by the over two-month setback due to injury during his best stretch of ball during the season.
Before the Valentine’s Day injuries suffered against the Nuggets, Davis had averaged 25.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.8 steals per contest in the eight games leading up to his most recent outing. During those eight games, he also shot 55-percent from the field.
Before Davis’ injury, the Lakers — who lost James to a high-ankle sprain one month later — had been 21-6, not including the loss to Denver on the day AD went down. During Davis’ absence, the Lakers have gone 14-16, including a 7-8 stretch after losing James as well. Still, Davis comes back at an opportune time for the team, which is 35-23 and fifth in the Western Conference and have not won or lost two straight games since March 26-28. (Literally, it’s been win-loss-win-loss for 12 consecutive games!)
With 14 games left in the season, beginning with a four-game road trip starting tonight, the Lakers are 3 games behind the Nuggets at the four seed and 5.5 games behind the Clippers at three. Right behind the Lakers are the Blazers, trailing by 3 games, followed by the Mavericks, who are just half-a-game behind Portland. In all likelihood, even with Davis’ return, James’ pending return, and Denver’s Jamal Murray out for the season, the Lakers probably will remain in that four-to-five-seed range.
Per McMenamin, LeBron is doing light work on the court but isn’t ready for a return. And in Denver’s four games since Murray tore his ACL, the Nuggets are 4-0, including wins over the Blazers and Heat. For the Lakers, who still have match-ups against the Nuggets, Clippers, Blazers, and Suns on the horizon, they’re likely staring at a first-round series with Denver, led by MVP-favorite Nikola Jokic. Getting Davis back is obviously a necessary first step, but he’ll be limited, as will James, until the playoffs. They have to continue treading water and trust that they’ll be themselves come playoff time.