LOS ANGELES – When Anthony Davis' right leg became too painful to play on two months ago, the big man and the Los Angeles Lakers decided he wouldn't return until he was completely ready to be himself again.
More than two months later, Davis is confident that time has arrived with 14 regular-season games left in the Lakers' push to defend their NBA title.
Davis intends to play Thursday night when the Lakers open a four-game road trip at Dallas, he said after a workout at the team's training complex. He hasn't suited up since Feb. 14, missing Los Angeles' last 30 games in the longest injury absence of his nine-year NBA career.
“I wanted to make sure I was coming back 100%, because it wouldn’t be fair to myself, wouldn’t be fair to my team,” Davis said Wednesday. “I feel great. These last games leading to the playoffs, a lot of teams aren’t healthy, a lot of players aren’t healthy. I’m 100%, and we’ve got Bron coming back as well who’s going to be 100% healthy. I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position.”
Indeed, the Lakers (35-23) have managed to stay in the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings despite playing without Davis for nine weeks and without LeBron James since March 20. The Lakers went 14-16 without Davis, and they’re 7-9 since both Davis and James went down.
Coach Frank Vogel said James is still “probably a couple of weeks or so” away from returning from his sprained ankle.
Davis will start when he returns, but will only play about 15 minutes in his first game back. Vogel intends to monitor his superstar's acclimation closely, and his return could be pushed back another game if Davis feels sore on Thursday morning.
“Honestly, if you’re out for this long, it usually takes a couple of weeks to feel like you really have your legs under you, and your rhythm and timing is back,” Vogel said. “It’s going to take some time, and as far as the minutes restriction, it’s really going to be evaluated on a day-by-day basis.”