Monday, July 15, 2024

Lakers’ Anthony Davis trying to grit his way through back injury

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EL SEGUNDO — The Lakers have said Anthony Davis can’t make his back injury any worse.

But watching his face recently, it looks plenty painful enough.

Davis, 29, is on a mission to play as many games as possible this season, pushing back on the reputation that he’s not available enough. After missing 76 of 154 possible regular-season games the past two years, the Charles Barkley-bestowed nickname “Street Clothes” got under his skin.

But also under his skin, at the moment, is lower back pain that seems pretty concerning: In the closing moments of the Lakers’ win against Denver on Sunday night, Davis grimaced as he landed from draining a putback under the rim. His postgame on-court interview after the team’s first victory of the season, typically a stand-up affair, was conducted from a chair.

Coach Darvin Ham said he’s had admiration for Davis’ toughness in the first stretch of the season – he’s averaging 23.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2 blocks despite battling a bad back throughout that time – though he’s had his worried moments as well at the end of the last game.

“I gestured, ‘Do you need a break?’ And he was like, ‘Nah.’ He waved me off,” Ham said. “He wants to dispel that myth that he’s never available. He’s had some unfortunate injuries over the last couple of years, but I can tell you right now, man, he’s been nothing short of monstrous since I’ve shown up.”

Davis is questionable for Wednesday night’s game against New Orleans, which features two bruising big men in Jonas Valanciunas and Zion Williamson. The matchup will not affect the Lakers’ decision, Ham said. Davis did a workout and received treatment on Tuesday.

“The injury is what it is,” he said. “So just gotta manage it and make sure we keep him as fresh as possible so he can go out and compete.”

The Lakers haven’t been specific about Davis’ injury, but Davis said Sunday he feels “little shocks” of pain. At times, it improves with adrenaline, he said, but he’s looked somewhat limited running up and down the court, or laboring through those efforts.

Davis seemed to take losses against Portland and Denver especially hard during the team’s 0-5 start, to the point that teammates LeBron James and Russell Westbrook both mentioned that he had to take care of his mind as well as his body. But after breaking through for the team’s first win, Davis said he felt pretty balanced.

“Mentally I’m in a great space, you know, and clearing my mind and making sure that I continue to be locked in, putting in all the work,” he said. “I had a great summer … I’m not letting this kind of stop me. I’m doing everything I can to make sure I can go out there and play, and we’ll deal with the rest when that time comes.”

The Lakers also added that forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, who has missed two straight games with a left ankle sprain, is probable to play against the Pelicans.


As history goes in L.A., bringing Pau Gasol in never has been a bad idea.

The 42-year-old has been in Los Angeles the past few days, sitting in the Arena crowd for Sunday’s victory over the Nuggets and getting a preview of what a jersey retirement ceremony will be like. Ham, who coached Gasol as an assistant in L.A. and Milwaukee, invited the Spaniard to speak to the team before practice.

The two-time champion apparently delivered a message that resonated.

“He basically just told us to stick together and embrace the struggle that we were going through and build on it,” Austin Reaves said. “There’s nothing like winning as a Laker, so once you get over the hump, and you get that behind you, there’s good days ahead.”

Gasol has plenty of built-in connections to the roster: He played against several of the veterans through the years (he was drafted just two years before James). Westbrook has said before that Gasol was his “favorite player” growing up as a Lakers fan, even ahead of Kobe Bryant.

Former San Antonio Spurs teammate Lonnie Walker IV relished an opportunity to let Gasol see how much he’s grown since they shared a locker room in 2019.

“Between him and Tim (Duncan, I don’t know who I was more star-struck on, just based off the history and what they have done,” Walker said of having Gasol as a teammate. “Having a player like Pau around, especially when I tore my meniscus, he was one of those players that really helped me when I was down.”

As a former player, Ham carries a certain gravitas when he addresses his locker room. But he said it helps to have an outside voice to reinforce his principles, he said.

“We gotta world champion coming in, responsible for and helped put a couple of these banners up, and a couple of these trophies in the window,” he said. “So it’s hard for you (as a player) to look for a way out, so to speak, like we don’t know what we’re doing, like we don’t know what we’re talking about. When they get that confirmation of what we’re saying that’s totally aligned with what we’re saying … that’s a great, great shot in the arm on a day like this.”

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