The Los Angeles Lakers have played 30 games without Anthony Davis. For 16 of those games, LeBron James wasn’t available either. And yet, they’ve gone 14-16 in their last 30 games and avoided falling into a play-in spot. How? By playing a scrappy brand of basketball.
Not only have the Lakers maintained their status as an elite defensive team with James and Davis out, but they’ve managed to keep their net rating positive (+1.0) despite the fact that they’ve posted the fifth-worst offensive rating (107.8) over the last 30 games. Not all of their wins have been pretty, but they look the same as the others in the win column.
The Lakers won’t have to work nearly as hard for wins when Davis returns to the lineup, but they won’t be at full strength either because while Davis is on track to play against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, there’s still no timetable for James’ return. For that reason, Davis doesn’t want his teammates to lose the competitive edge that they’ve played with for the last two months.
“We’re going to continue to fight,” Davis said on Wednesday. “Obviously, [James] is a big focal point of our team, but we’re going to have to be able to make up for that load. I mean, the guys have done a great job of making sure that we’ve stayed in the fight while LeBron and myself have been out. And now that I’m near a return, I think we probably have maybe a couple of weeks or so, I’m guessing, where it’s going to be my job to try to help the team stay afloat until he comes back as well and stay fighting.”
Frank Vogel also doesn’t want his team to stop playing with the sense of urgency that they played with when they didn’t have their star players to lean on. In fact, he thinks Davis and the Lakers can gain some valuable experience by playing without James, something they only had to do three times last season.
“For sure, because even when ‘Bron comes back, he doesn’t play 48 minutes,” Vogel said on Wednesday. “We’ve got to win the minutes when he’s out and that’s area that has been hit or miss for us the last two years: performing when ‘Bron’s out. So these extended minutes should be a silver lining in helping us be better in those stretches.”
The hope is that they won’t have to play shorthanded for much longer, but while they are, Davis wants his teammates to keep fighting hard with that “next man up” mentaility.
“This team has done no more than we can ask for,” Davis said. “Each guys made sure that we stayed in the fight and won games. Even when guys thought we were going to drop drastically because of me and Bron’s injuries, we’ve been able to stay afloat. So we’re going to continue to work hard, be the hardest-playing team, being a team that plays for each other, plays together, and continue to win ballgames.”
The Lakers and Mavericks will tip-off at 6:30 p.m. PT and the game will be broadcast on TNT.
Notes and Updates
- LeBron James (right ankle sprain) and Jared Dudley (right MCL tear) are out.
- Anthony Davis (right calf strain) and Marc Gasol (volar plate fracture, left pinkie finger) are questionable.
- Andre Drummond (right big toe contusion), Markieff Morris (left ankle sprain) and Dennis Schröder (infection, right foot) are probable.