Anthony Davis didn’t quite look like himself while shooting 2-9 from the field as he tried to play through a left knee sprain in Sunday’s Game 4 loss to the Suns. But even in a limited capacity, Davis was determined to not let the Lakers down and play through it. Unfortunately, he ended up sustaining an even worse injury in the process, a Grade 1 groin strain that’s left his availability for Game 5 — and by extension, the rest of the series — in serious doubt.
There is no issue that is more pressing for the Lakers right now, and so any insight into the team’s thinking on it is extremely important as we wait and see how soon Davis can return, and how healthy he’ll be when he does.
That makes it notable that Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported during an appearance on “The Lowe Post” podcast that one of his sources is saying the team would rather play with a limited Davis than not have him out there at all. If the former is even possible, that is (emphasis mine):
“A Lakers source told me yesterday when I asked ‘hey, AD wasn’t all that good in the 19 minutes he played in the first half before he got hurt, if he can even get to that level, would you want him playing in Game 5?’ And the source told me ‘any AD is better than no AD.’
“So it seems to me that the thinking would be that if they can get Anthony Davis to 50% or whatever the number would be where he felt comfortable without suffering further injuries, he’ll be in the lineup, but that’s just conjecture because we’ll see if his body will even allow him to get up and down the court.”
If Davis can’t make his injury worse, then it’s easy to understand the reasoning here. Davis is a huge part of the Lakers’ identity, and even a limited version of him is still someone the Suns would have to account for to some degree until they could gauge how healthy he actually was. But as McMenamin notes, there is no guarantee that Davis can even get to the level where he can make himself some semblance of a threat, or even a glorified decoy. We just don’t know right now.
The flip side of this is, for as much as obviously the Lakers are still trying to compete for a title this season, they can’t do anything that puts Davis’ future health and availability in jeopardy, whether for these playoffs, or even moving forward. Groin injuries are notoriously nagging. Based on reports, it sounds like Davis avoided a tear, but the last thing the Lakers need is him coming back too soon, sustaining a worse injury, and being out for not only the rest of the playoffs, but potentially limited moving forward as well.
After all, Davis’ co-star, LeBron James, just said yesterday that he’s never felt like he got back to the level he was at physically before his own groin tear in 2018. The Lakers can’t afford to risk that with Davis, or let him risk it himself if he’s pushing to play.
Again, we don’t know that any of that is a real concern. Maybe this really is something that can heal in a few days, and Davis and the team got lucky. But these are the factors that the Lakers will have to weigh when deciding how quickly to bring back their star. We’ll just have to wait and see what they decide to do — and what Davis looks like if he does come back — as the next couple of days unfold.