Anthony Davis will miss Game 5 of the Lakers’ first-round series against the Phoenix Suns. This move is unsurprising after all the reports over the last day that it was “unlikely” Davis would be able to suit up after suffering a Grade 1 groin strain in Game 4, and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports first reported that Davis will sit out.
The Lakers later confirmed that report when announcing their starting lineup, with Markieff Morris taking Davis’ spot:
Here are your Lakers vs. Suns starters and inactives. As expected, Markieff Morris will replace AD in the starting lineup: pic.twitter.com/gWCfEfJNw1— We Believe Faigen (@hmfaigen) June 2, 2021
The decision to sit Davis came after he did attempt to warm up for the game with some light shooting:
This is about the level of intensity we’ve seen from AD since he came onto the court. He just headed back to the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/pfTzdaiOE2— Bill Oram (@billoram) June 2, 2021
And even came back out for a second warmup session to test himself further:
No sense of pace in any shots he took just now, just some casual threes. Doesn't look like a guy preparing for an NBA game, but -- we'll find out, I suppose. https://t.co/s3wLZjDe1c— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) June 2, 2021
Nothing he did in these two stints on the floor indicated Anthony Davis was trying to get ready to play tonight. Have to think keeping his status in doubt is more gamesmanship than any actual uncertainty. https://t.co/LaNgzF6LT7— Bill Oram (@billoram) June 2, 2021
At his pre-game media availability, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said that whether Davis would sit or not would ultimately come down to the training staff.
“If they feel he’s at risk for injuring it further, then obviously they won’t clear him to be out there. But if they feel like he’s just playing through some pain, and he’s not at any further risk than any other player, then he’ll be cleared,” Vogel said. “It’s going to be a medical decision.”
The medical staff evidently decided that Davis was at some level of risk for this game, but Vogel did have at least some good news on his star: The knee sprain that limited him in Game 4 has gotten better.
“The groin is the bigger priority,” Vogel said. “I don’t believe that the knee is an issue. He was playing with a bit of soreness in the knee the other night, so it’s really about the groin right now.”
But sitting Davis anyway makes sense, especially if taking into account an ESPN report on Monday that quoted a Lakers source who said that the team’s mindset internally is that “any AD is better than no AD” as this series moves forward. If that’s the case, then they might as well try to catch the Suns off guard, win one game without him, and then head home with a chance to close out the series, with or without Davis in uniform.
In happier news for the Lakers, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will make his return to the lineup after missing the better part of the last two games with a knee contusion. This was also somewhat expected after Caldwell-Pope said he felt better after practice on Monday, but his return will provide the Lakers with at least one more player who can — at least theoretically — space the floor around LeBron James.
Caldwell-Pope has been in the midst of a brutal, 1-13 shooting slump to start this series, but James has been telling him to keep shooting, and he’s trying to stay confident. But even if his shots aren’t falling, Caldwell-Pope has been huge defensively on Devin Booker, and should at least be able to make an impact there, if he’s healthy.
Davis still not playing obviously makes this game much tougher sledding for the Lakers, but with a full day-plus to prepare for him to be out instead of having to adjust mid-game like last time, they should at least be in a better position to survive his absence. If they can grab a win here, it would not only put them on the precipice of a series victory, but also buy Davis more crucial time to recover. We’ll see if they can get it done when they tip off against the Suns at 7 p.m. PT tonight.
This developing story will be updated with more information.