Injuries have hit the Los Angeles Lakers hard this season, but there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Anthony Davis has been sidelined since mid-February with a calf strain and Achilles tendon discomfort, but the Lakers are hopeful the big man will be able to return to game action following their current five-game road trip, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
The Lakers opened their road trip with a 110-101 win over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, and it also includes stops in Miami, Brooklyn, New York and Charlotte. Their first game back in L.A. will be against the Boston Celtics on April 15, so it seems as though that's the earliest potential return date for Davis.
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Davis has missed the past 23 games because of persistent Achilles' tendon discomfort and an adjacent calf strain. There is some hope within the organization that he will return to the lineup after the Lakers' five-game Eastern Conference swing underway, but any injury that involves the Achilles' tendon, no matter how purportedly mild, is going to spook people until Davis gets back on the floor. Achilles' tendon injuries remain the most feared in the sport.
In addition to Davis, the Lakers have also been without LeBron James since March 20 due to a high-ankle sprain. And though James could potentially return by the end of April, there's really no clear timetable given James' age and the potential severity of his injury.
James has missed the past nine games after sustaining a high-ankle sprain during a game against Atlanta on March 20. The reflex assumption, because this is James, is that he will return by month's end and duly return to elite form. Given that James is 36, and in his 18th season, we should probably also acknowledge the possibility that his recovery won't be seamless.
Ultimately, having both James and Davis healthy for postseason play is the most important thing for the Lakers, so it makes sense that they're not rushing the return of either player. As long as L.A. has both James and Davis in May, June and July, they'll have a real chance to repeat as NBA champions, even though their road to repeating has been muddied by injury issues.
Until Davis and James are able to return, the Lakers will rely heavily on recently acquired center Andre Drummond. The big man has played in just a single game with the Lakers so far after injuring his toe in his debut with the team, but is expected to return to action against the Heat on Thursday night. Drummond will ultimately be the third, or fourth offensive option on the Lakers, but he became accustomed to being a top option during his days in Detroit, and he will have to tap into that experience in the short term.
The Lakers have already dropped down to fifth in the Western Conference standings in the absence of their stars. If they stay in that spot, they won't have home-court advantage in any round of the playoffs and will also likely face a difficult first-round matchup. They certainly don't want to drop any lower in the standings either. If they drop down to the seventh spot they'll be forced to participate in the play-in tournament, and at that point anything could happen. So in short, the sooner that Davis and James can return to the floor, the better.