Understandably, the news that New Orleans Pelicans superstar and LeBron James’ fellow Klutch Sports client, Anthony Davis, wants out of the bayou and is thought to strongly prefer the Los Angeles Lakers has Laker-land in a frenzy.
Davis is a top-five player in the league with a dynamic combination of skill, age, and physical attributes that naturally result in fans all across the league giving him goo-goo eyes.
However, as enamored as we all are with the player, there’s a dark reality that follows Davis: His extensive injury history. Davis is currently nursing a mild “volar plate avulsion fracture” of his left index finger that has kept him out since January 18th, with a tentative return date for this Saturday, depending on how the finger continues to respond to treatment (and whether or not the Pelicans trade him, obviously).
As an aside, if you want to learn more about the injury and how it could affect him the rest of the season, watch this video I made.
And Davis’ latest ding is just the latest in a laundry list of nicks for the oft-injured or banged-up Pelicans’ superstar. But don’t take my word for it, here’s the list:
Taking out “illness” and consolidating similar entries in terms of injury type and when it happened (these repeats are rarely new injuries, but lingering or residual affects of the first injury), that’s 31 injuries over six years. Davis missed 68 games over his first four seasons and is approaching 24 games missed over the last two and roughly two-thirds seasons. He’s very likely been banged up for a number of others.
There’s justifiable concern for his durability and injury risk moving forward. Many of the injuries he’s suffered are the type where previous injury is the highest indicator of future injury. Further, the common rationale of “he’s played into the playoffs and deep runs multiple times” doesn’t apply since Davis has only been to the playoffs twice for a total of nine games played. It naturally begs the question: How will he hold up if he does have to play deep into May and June?
What may partially explain this injury trend is the fact that Davis has always carried the lion’s share of workload for every Pelicans team he’s played on. That’s not to say he hasn’t had good players around him, but the gap between him and the next player has always been stark (that includes DeMarcus Cousins). Teams are game-planning primarily for him, with all 10 defensive eyes laser-focused on his every move.
This means two key things when it comes to injury risk: He has to expend a ton of energy, and he’s constantly playing in a crowd. Fatigue is a key risk indicator in many injuries, and playing in tighter quarters results in higher risk for acute injuries — from getting hit, landing on someone’s foot, thrown off-balance, fingers whacked, and so on.
Enter LeBron James.
Davis playing alongside James — who has equal, if not greater, gravity in terms of defensive attention — would help alleviate many of those injury risk indicators. Davis can operate in more space, get the ball in easier spots on the floor, and doesn’t have to carry the physical — or mental — burden of having to do everything, with the entire weight of a franchise resting on his shoulders.
The life of the condemned Titan Atlas would’ve been way more chill if he had a friend to distribute the weight of the world.
LeBron James can be that friend for Anthony Davis. As Samwise Gamgee once told Frodo Baggins as they trekked toward Mordor to destroy the one ring that ruled them all: “Share the load (while decreasing your injury issues and potentially getting a ring to call your own).”
Davis has never had a teammate of equal skill who could share his massive burden. Teaming with James would give him one, and potentially make both of them healthier and more productive in the process.
Dr. Rajpal Brar has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, and runs his own sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA. He also works at a hospital — giving him experience with patients in the immediate healthcare setting and neurological patients (post stroke, post brain injury) — and has been practicing for 1.5 years. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), and analyzes the Lakers from a medical perspective for Silver Screen and Roll.