March 8, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Anthony Davis strains Achilles in Lakers’ loss to Nuggets

Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ $190-million man, winced as he pushed his frame ever so slightly off the court during a free throw Sunday in Denver, his eyes darting down to his right leg.

A week ago, Davis received an ultrasound on his right Achilles tendon and would miss the next two games as a result. The diagnosis was “Achilles tendinosis.” The prognosis was ultimately “no big deal.”

“I’m able to just go out there and play and not worry about it,” Davis said Friday after returning to the court.

But as Davis stood at the free-throw line in the first half, waiting for his teammates to find someone to foul so he could hobble off the court, how could you not worry?

Davis stiffly walked himself to the team’s locker room, cautious of every step he made with his right leg, aware of each pound pressed down onto his foot.

Minutes earlier as he tried to drive past Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Davis’ mouth shot open in pain as he planted, one wrong step with the potential to change the Lakers’ season. Davis stayed in the game, shot two free throws and hobbled off the court.

Highlights from the Lakers’ 122-105 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

“You don’t want to mess around with this kind of injury,” Davis said after the Lakers’ 122-105 loss, snapping their seven-game winning streak.

The team diagnosed him with a right Achilles strain. He’ll undergo an MRI exam Monday, the credibility of the team’s championship hopes tied to the test results.

“Obviously, the doctors don’t want to rule out anything or say it’s something that it’s not, but they said everything looked good,” Davis said. “But they still want to get a MRI to make sure.”

The test will happen in Minnesota, where the Lakers will face the Timberwolves on Tuesday. Davis was just in his second game back after missing two games with Achilles soreness.

“I felt like I was ready to go,” Davis said after the injury. “… I think we did all the right steps to come back.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Davis was in good spirits when they spoke at halftime, though it’s unclear the severity of the injury.

“All I care about is his health,” LeBron James said. “I want him to be healthy. Our team needs him to be healthy. …No rush.”

The injury came as Davis finally started to look like the game-changing player he’s capable of being, having scored 15 points on 11 shots — the Lakers’ star finally committing to finding his offense after a season so far of mostly passive play.

The signs of a breakout came Friday against the Grizzlies, when Davis gritted and ground through a slow start in his first game back after being sidelined for two. He missed his first five shots against Memphis — the kind of thing that had forced Davis into a bit of an offensive retreat as he tried to work himself into rhythm in the season’s first third.

But against the Grizzlies, he kept pushing, kept shooting and finished with 35 points, his 27 attempts the most he’d taken in a game this season.

After playing nearly 35 minutes Friday, Davis left the game late with some soreness in the Achilles, he said.

“It felt great going into the game. But as you play, I’m always using that Achilles tendon,” he said after the win over Memphis. “It got sore towards the end from just constantly moving on it.”

Vogel said before the game with Denver that he wasn’t planning on doing anything special with Davis’ minutes, taking a straightforward approach.

“Obviously if he’s having discomfort on the court, and we need to get him out, we’ll get him out,” Vogel said.

Davis was in the starting lineup Sunday night.

Before the game in Denver, Vogel said he wanted to see Davis push through slow starts, and he did it again early against the Nuggets, triggering fastbreaks with his hustle and getting the offense on track with his consistent attacking.

The Lakers opened out of rhythm, making only one of five shots to start the game. And Denver was rolling, out to a quick 9-2 lead.

It was the start the Lakers didn’t want, the kind they’ve had for most of the last two weeks. But this time, they pulled the brake.

Instead of creating a double-digit hill to climb, the Lakers regathered and regrouped, playing with a pace that escaped them in the first quarter for the overwhelming chunk of their winning streak.

The urgency was best illustrated with Davis chasing down a loose rebound into the Denver bench, saving the ball to Marc Gasol, who quickly zipped it to Dennis Schroder.

Schroder then pushed the pace, going one on two and missing at the rim. But James trailed the play, grabbed the rebound off the backboard and slammed it home with both hands.

The 11 shots Davis took before being hurt were three more than he took in the Lakers’ win over Denver this month.

It triggered a run to put the Lakers up — momentum they mostly carried before Davis’ injury. In the quarter after he left the game, they trailed by as many as 19.

“He knows what he means to us,” Vogel said of Davis before the game.

The Lakers have seen what Davis has meant in the past — the NBA championship rings they all have from last season tangible proof.

And if the injury is serious, the Lakers will see how valuable Davis is again — this time in the futile scramble to fill the void left without him on the court.