PHOENIX — Anthony Davis cannot say for sure whether he will return to game action for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, but is hopeful the mid-foot sprain in his right foot will heal in time for a comeback.
« I’m very optimistic about it, » Davis told a small group of reporters before the Lakers played the Suns on Sunday, making his first comments about the injury since it occurred Feb. 16. « I’m trying to get back on the court as soon as possible. As far as a number or something, I would love to say 100 but with only a certain amount of games yet, not 100 percent sure. »
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Davis would begin spot shooting in Los Angeles on Monday, nearly four weeks to the day when the star big man went airborne to catch a lob pass and came down on a heel of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Davis’ ankle turned outward and he fell to the floor, clutching his lower right leg in pain.
« When it first happened, I heard the crunching, like everything in my foot, » Davis said. « And the first thing I heard, when I looked up and I just saw either Royce O’Neale or Donovan Mitchell turn around [and say], like, ‘Oh s—.’ And when I looked down, and I couldn’t move my foot, my first thought was, ‘Please let it not be broken.' »
Davis said the foot became discolored and so swollen it looked like a softball was stuffed inside of it. « Literally, it was huge, » Davis said. He still refuses to watch a replay of what happened.
The fact that it happened less than a month after he had to sit out 17 straight games because of a sprained MCL in his left knee only made it worse.
« The first thing I thought was, ‘Not again,' » Davis said. « I just got off of [being sidelined] four-to-six [weeks]. Now I got another four-to-six. So that’s where the anger came from. … It was a little bit of relief that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but more so anger of, ‘Here we go again.' »
Without Davis, LA beat the Jazz that night to head into the All-Star break at 27-31. But in the time since, the Lakers have gone just 2-6.
Davis said he’s been able to keep up his cardio while he’s been out through high-paced weight training and heavy ropes. He said his return from the MCL sprain — when he played sharply almost immediately, averaging 22.6 points on 59%, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the 10 games before the foot injury — gives him a blueprint for what he can expect this time around.
« When I got a chance to get back out there, it was just like, ‘Ah, I missed you,' » Davis said. « And I was able to play at an elite level. Kind of the same right now, especially because this is a different position. We’re fighting to stay in the play-in games and fighting to get into the playoffs. This is more , like, I’m trying to rush back but do it the right way so I don’t re-injure the foot. Obviously, timing is of the essence. »
The Lakers’ struggles minus their eight-time All-Star brought to mind their first-round playoff exit a year ago, when the Suns were able to come back to win the series after being down 2-1 ounce Davis’ suffered a groin injury . Davis still believes that the Lakers would have advanced had he been able to stay on the court.
« I think we know that, I think they know that, » he said. « I just feel like they just got away with one. »
Vogel, who termed the chances of Davis returning before the regular season concludes in 16 games as « 100 percent maybe, » said the Lakers can’t dwell on their missing star in the middle in the meantime.
« The mindset is to not think about Anthony and try to win these games in the short term, » he said.
One positive to Davis’ absence has been LeBron James’ success at center. Coming into the Suns game, LA was 7-4 with James starting at the 5 — including 50-point efforts in two out of his last three games — according to Vogel. James started again at center Sunday.
Davis said seeing James’ dominance while he’s been out has been a reminder of the precarious opportunity they share.
« Very short window, » Davis said. « We don’t know how long he has left in this league. Phenomenal player, future Hall of Famer, and to be able to play alongside him, you want to take advantage of it. We did the first year. Last year we both were banged up, and then this year, it’s [injuries] again but more so me. So every day it’s closing. That’s another frustrating part. A lot of guys don’t get to play with talent like that. I have the opportunity to do so. … I want to take advantage of that time.
« He has another year left with the Lakers … and then who knows? I don’t know what he’s going to do. So we got this year and next year to try to take advantage of that and get another ring out of it . »