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Anthony Davis says he keeps playing because he can’t lead from the bench

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Anthony Davis had to leave another game with another injury — this time after taking a hit to his rib — but he said that despite his shoulder and rib soreness, he wants to stay on the floor, and it’s inspiring the rest of the Lakers.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Just 10 games into the 2019-20 NBA season, the sight of Anthony Davis heading back to the locker room is becoming all-to-familiar of an image for Los Angeles Lakers fans. Davis is already wearing a compression shirt and receiving heating pads on the bench to treat what the Lakers have thus far only described as a “sore right shoulder,” and in the team’s Tuesday win against the Phoenix Suns, Davis picked up a new ding.

Shortly after he returned to the bench and allowed concerned viewers to breathe again, it was revealed that Davis had been hit in the rib, and had went back to the locker room to get it taped. While Davis returned to play well — finishing with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block — few were very focused on his statistical output after the game. Most wanted to know about his health, and Davis provided a few details while speaking to reporters at his locker on Spectrum SportsNet:

“Not sure on what play or when it was, but I just wanted to go back in (to the locker room), get it taped up, wrapped up because it was kind of bothering me a little bit. So just got it taped up, wrapped up, kind of keeping it secure or whatever the trainers were saying... Just trying to get back on the floor as soon as possible."

Update: Davis had an X-Ray, which came back negative, although Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports that it appears Davis won't play on Wednesday:

And with the Lakers rolling and his long-term health so important, why does Davis want to get onto the floor so badly anyway? The obvious reason is that he helps his team win games with his talent, but he says his thought process goes beyond just what he can contribute in the stat sheet:

“I just want to play. It’s tough for me to lead from the sideline... The more I can be on the floor helping this team win, that’s what I try to do. I know what our goal is. I know what we’re trying to do, so the more I can stay on the floor, the more steps we move towards our goal.”

Teammate LeBron James said that Davis’ display of grit is having its intended effect on the locker room:

“He wants to play. We just have to pick it up for him. When he’s showing that grit... there’s no reason for any of us to not be out there as well.”

Davis also impressed Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel:

“(He’s) playing through a lot of pain. A rib injury. He’s being examined right now, we’ll have an update as we get it. But a gritty effort for him to play through pain and help us close the game out.”

But while Davis’ display of selflessness by trying to remain on the court for his team is sort of admirable, the Lakers just have to make sure he’s not risking further injury by continuing to suit up. To be clear, I have no idea if he is or isn’t, but one just has to hope that if the medical staff was concerned in any way, they would step in and save Davis from himself. Especially when factoring in that — literally two days ago — Davis said of his shoulder “there’s really never a play I don’t feel it.” Adding the rib to the equation, the team just needs to make sure that Davis isn’t making a mistake by continuing his attempt to grit his way through these accumulating maladies.

On that note, Davis was asked if he had considered not playing on the second end of the Lakers’ first back-to-back of the year, when the team returns home to host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. Davis told reporters that he isn’t sure what he’ll do:

“I’ll talk to the trainers and see. Obviously we’ll see how the shoulder and ribs feel tomorrow when I get up and we’ll go from there.”

For now, that’s all Davis and the Lakers can really do, but still, part of leadership is occasionally sacrificing a battle to win a war, and if Davis sitting on the bench a few times now can keep him on the court later, given everything we know about the human body and how it responds to the grind of tons of basketball, it’s at least worth considering that even if Davis can go against the Warriors, maybe he shouldn’t.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.