“I didn’t feel it this morning, afternoon, pregame, anything. I just felt like we was headed in the right direction on the treatment side and the rehab side,” Davis said.
That all changed in the second quarter in Denver, when Davis suffered an Achilles strain that forced him to leave the game for the rest of the evening and will necessitate an MRI on Monday. He’s clearly trying to keep a positive attitude about it, but admitted the situation isn’t fun.
“This is another setback on it, but it’s a part of the game,” Davis said. “(It’s) more so frustrating that I’m not able to go out there and play, but you don’t want to mess around with this type of injury. So it’s trying to figure out the best steps after receiving the information from the MRI tomorrow.”
Davis says he doesn’t have any long-term concern about the injury, and that he doesn’t regret his decision to continue playing on it even after experiencing pain during the team’s previous game against the Memphis Grizzlies, his first back in the lineup after missing the prior two with the same injury.
“I felt great coming back the first time against Memphis, and I’m going to do the same thing, the same steps to get it back right,” Davis said. “I feel like l was ready to go, training staff felt like I was ready to go. I did pickup the day before the Memphis game and it felt fine, woke up the next day and felt fine.
“I think we did all the right steps to come back, and after the Memphis game it felt good the next day. It felt good yesterday and all up to today it felt great. It felt great in the first quarter, it felt great from the time I was in in the second quarter until the last play,” Davis continued. “I think it was just the way I moved and stepped that re-aggravated that injury, but I don’t think I rushed back.”
Head coach Frank Vogel similarly did not want to second-guess the decision to let Davis play. He reiterated they talked it over with the medical staff, and that the Lakers wouldn’t have let Davis suit up if they thought the injury was likely to get worse.
“If the medical team clears him to play, he plays,” Vogel said.
Still, Davis said that he wanted to be “smarter” about how he handles his return next time, even while also (somewhat paradoxically) making it clear he wants to get back quickly, saying that he would consider getting treatment five times a day instead of the current three times “to try and get it back where it needs to be.” He said that the training staff iced him after the game and put extra heel lifts in his shoes — which he’s also been wearing in games — to alleviate the pressure on his Achilles tendon. At night, he’s been sleeping in a sleeve that he says keeps the tendon flexed so it doesn’t “shorten up.”
Davis is doing it all because he believes that star players should play when they can, and he wants to not just help his team on the court, but also to shake the “injury prone” label that he’s been tagged with for much of his career.
“I just overcame it last year and even my last couple years in New Orleans, just playing through injuries and knowing what my body can take, what it can handle and if it’s something minor, it’s fine, I’ll go out there and play,” Davis said. “I felt like I was fine enough to go out there and play... But this injury is a little different. Because it is the Achilles and you definitely want to make sure it doesn’t lead to anything worse, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out there to play.
“If I feel like I can go out there I will, just for the simple fact that I want to be able to help my team. And I can help my team from the sidelines, but I think I’m more effective when I’m on the floor. And they pay me to play. I go out there and try to compete at the highest level and do what I can to help this team,” Davis continued. “If that means me going out there and playing through some minor bumps and bruises, then that’s what it is.”
Still, his co-star LeBron James says that Davis shouldn’t be pressuring himself to come back at the cost of his long-term health or at the risk of further injury. He says it’s on the Lakers to play championship-level basketball whether Davis is on the floor or not, and that while no one player can replace his production, they can try to win games by committee while Davis tries to get right.
“For me, all I care about is his health. I want him to be healthy. Our team needs him to be healthy,” James said. “He’s got to make sure that he takes all the precautions and does his due diligence on what’s going on with his injury, and be right when he comes back. So no rush, no timetable. We have no idea from that aspect, but we just want him to be healthy and back at full strength.”
And as much as Davis wants to play and remain optimistic, it does appear that this scare may have been a bit of a wake-up call.
“This one is a little different that I feel like I have to be smarter with, and don’t want to go out there and try to be Superman and risk it for the long-term,” Davis said. “But all this is (depending) on the MRI tomorrow. I hope it’s great information and I’ll be out there sooner than later.”
The Lakers surely hope so too. They would just be well-served to make sure Davis is healthy whenever he does so.