Fully Healthy Anthony Davis Is Ready for NBA's Return
We learned what might be the best thing that’s happened for the Lakers during the COVID-19 hiatus on Thursday when talking to All-Star Anthony Davis: he’s 100 percent healthy.
“It’s been good,” he said of the time off the court. “It’s given me a chance to let my body recover. Kind of take a midseason break and let everything heal, get back to like how I was at the beginning of the year. It’s been good for me to let some of the lingering injuries I had towards the time when the NBA stopped to let those recover and heal and get back into the best version of myself. I feel 100 percent healthy. Well, I don’t feel, I am. I’m ready to go.”
Davis played in 55 of LAL’s 63 games this season, missing five due to a gluteus maximus contusion after a scary fall, and one apiece due to a sprained ankle, right knee soreness and a sore right shoulder.
“We were definitely hitting a mark where we were playing a lot of games in a lot of days, and trying to solidify that first place spot in the West and even overall,” said Davis, who’s averaging 26.7 points, 9.4 boards, 2.4 blocks, 1.5 steals and 3.1 assists. “We were playing a lot of games, a lot of minutes, and it’s been more about letting everything rest and heal on its own.”
Throughout the season, AD’s teammates and coaches praised how often he took the floor with the kind of nagging injuries that players sometimes don’t play through, which Frank Vogel said on Thursday was very important to his squad.
“The first thing that it shows is his toughness,” explained Vogel. “If there’s a way to be on the floor, be on the floor. That sets a great tone for our group, the mental toughness that we’re going to have in competing to win games, and I thought AD did a great job of that throughout the year.”
Keeping AD and the rest of the Lakers healthy is perhaps the biggest concern moving forward.
All NBA teams had to submit their lists of 35 people going to Orlando today, and Vogel called it a “fairly miserable” process, since they had to leave valuable contributors off the list. They ended up doing what gave them the best opportunity to be healthy, to support the players from a medical standpoint especially since they’re coming off a lockout-type layoff that could increase injury risk. They also are taking 17 players* to make sure there are enough practice bodies. That leaves the Lakers “a little shorthanded on the coaching front,” but they’re hopeful to add people as the playoffs progress, provided they keep advancing.
*This would include two-way players DeVontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo.
Last week, I reviewed AD’s season through the stoppage , and came away thinking about how he had a good chance to pick things up even more during the playoffs.
Of course, the Defensive Player of the Year candidate always brought it on that end, but such is LeBron’s mastery of an NBA offense that AD didn’t always have to take it to the top level on offense for the Lakers to win in the regular season, which is the luxury of having two superstars. In the playoffs, however, you figure to get both players at that level on most nights.
I asked Vogel about that balance between his two stars on the offensive end.
“Any time Anthony Davis takes the floor, you have the chance to see something special*,” he began. “He continues to get better, he works extremely hard, and his talent is off the charts. There is an element that with LeBron out there, maybe it’s not always needed, but when we get into the playoff environment, we’re going to need everybody at their best, and I expect to see some terrific performances from him.”
What helps get those consistent performances? For AD, it’s health. That’s the biggest factor he mentioned when asked how he’d compare L.A.’s chances at a championship from when the season stopped to where they are today.
“I think it’s kind of the same,” he said. “Obviously we’re missing a key piece in (Avery Bradley), but we have guys who are healthy, guys who are ready to go. Nothing changes from my standpoint. Actually, I think our chances are higher because we’re all rested. We’re all ready to go. If anything, our chances got higher, and it’s going to be about who wants it more. Everybody had a decompression of the season … it’s about which team wants it more and which team can stay healthy.”
There’s one thing Davis will definitely miss in Orlando: Lakers fans, since all games will be played without fans. Davis was constantly amazed throughout the season with how many Lakers fans showed up to the games in visiting arenas, and loved playing at Staples Center.
“Obviously we feed off Laker Nation, home and on the road,” he said. “It’s going to be very different not being able to have them by our side during this time. It’s going to be more of a mental thing than anything. If you’re having a bad game, there’s not going to be fans there to get you going. As we say on the team, you gotta bring your own energy … I think we’re motivated as a team, and self-motivated to win.”
Nobody will have fans, but the Lakers have LeBron and AD. Vogel was asked about how he felt seeing his two leaders back at the UCLA Health Training Center.
“Excitement and confidence,” he offered. “Honestly. You come in and you don’t expect what it’s going to feel like to see those guys, but watching them work, and seeing what they’re capable of doing and just thinking back of where we were at, it gives me a great deal of confidence about what we’re about to endure in terms of going down to Orlando in a closer-to-playoffs setting and into the playoffs, what we can accomplish.”
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