The Los Angeles Lakers could not have started the season any better. They are tied with the Denver Nuggets as the top team in the Western Conference with a 7-2 record, they have one of the best defenses in the league led by a rejuvenated LeBron James and Anthony Davis is looking every bit like an MVP candidate on a nightly basis.
Through the first few weeks of the season, Davis has reminded everyone that he is, in fact, one of the top players in the league. He's averaging 26.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and a league-leading 3.1 blocks a night. His 40-point, 20-rebound performance was a rarity in the NBA. However, despite not missing a game so far, Davis admits he's been dealing with some discomfort in his right shoulder.
"There's really never a play I don't feel it," Davis said. "I try not to let it affect my game. I just play through it and then worry about taking care of it after the game."
While he hasn't missed a game so far this season, Davis can be seen on the bench with a heating pad on his shoulder to alleviate any pain he's feeling during the contest. It hasn't affected his game too much so far, but the Lakers will next play in their first back-to-back of the season against the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
Davis told media after Lakers' practice on Monday that his plan is to play in the game against the Suns on Tuesday, however, he will hold off on making his final decision until after he's gone through shootaround. When asked about his thoughts on load management, Davis made it clear that he wants to play as much as possible.
"If I can play then I want to play," Davis said. "I've been injured enough where I've missed tons of games, so I've had plenty of load management. I want to be on the floor as much as possible and contribute to our success."
There's no doubt he's been one of the main factors behind the Lakers' early-season success with his play on both ends of the floor, and despite the soreness in his right shoulder, it's not something that limits Davis on the court.
"I don't think about it when I'm playing, it's after the play... after a blocked shot where I feel it, but I go back to playing," Davis said. "I play off adrenaline. It's after games that's hard when you cool down. So I constantly have heat pads on the bench, but the more I don't think about it, the easier the games are for me."
Davis re-aggravated his right shoulder on one of his four blocks against the Raptors with just under three minutes remaining in the game. Immediately after the block, Davis was grabbing his shoulder and moving his arm around to try and work out the pain. He wasn't removed from the game, as coach Frank Vogel said after the loss that the medical team examined him and "didn't feel he needed to come out."
Through the first few weeks of the season, Davis has had ample time in between games to recover and get ready for the next opponent, but it will be interesting to see if he plays in both games of the upcoming back-to-back. Davis might not think about the pain in his shoulder during games, but it is something that is there that he has to deal with, and the longer that pain exists, it could worsen making it harder for him to stay on the court when the Lakers need him most.
Davis may not want to hear the term "load management," but it may be in the Lakers' best interest to sit him out on the second night of their back-to-back. Playing 82 games is admirable, but not at the expense of entering the playoffs with a nagging shoulder injury.