Prior to the 2022-23 season, Anthony Davis set a goal of playing in all 82 games for the first time in his career.
It wasn’t exactly a realistic goal, not just because of Davis’ injury history, but also because stars don’t usually play in that many games. When a team has postseason aspirations, it behooves the coaching staff to manage their best players' minutes and games played, a sentiment Darvin Ham expressed during training camp.
But it’s understandable why Davis put that thought out in the universe, because he hasn’t been available for his team as much as he would like since arriving in Los Angeles. And the Lakers have struggled because of it. When Davis was out of the lineup in his first three seasons in the purple and gold, the Lakers went 30-30, not exactly in line with their championship aspirations (even though a .500 record would be absolutely delightful right now).
Davis also has a tendency to get nicked up while he’s playing, even if it doesn’t necessarily force him to miss games. Fans are constantly holding their breath when he falls. Nicknames have been made at his expense — Anthony Day-to-Davis is the one that seems to be most popular.
The Laker big man has definitely heard the chatter about his durability, and it’s fair to say it weighs on him; thus, the desire to play in every game this year.
So when Davis misses his first game of the season only five games into the 2022-23 campaign, he has to work his way back from a physical issue — his back has been agitating him since the preseason — but also deal with the fact that he already fell short of his goal. That becomes a mental hurdle, and not an insignificant one, considering what Davis has already been through.
His teammates are well aware of this challenge and are rooting for AD to get his body and his mind right before attempting to return. It’s the only way Davis can really be there for his team. As LeBron James said following Friday’s game (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“(AD) has to do what’s best for his body. you know, do what’s best for his body and his mind. When his mind is gone, then everything else falls to the wayside. So you know, he has to trust himself. He has to — you know, yes, he wants to play every game, yes, he wants to be out there for our team. But he’s had a lot of bumps and bruises over the last few years, so he has to trust himself, trust the staff, and not put his body in harm’s way.”
Russell Westbrook echoed those thoughts when asked if this season is starting to feel similar to last year in terms of the injury bug (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“Nah, no to be honest, no. Like I said, I feel good about today. AD is taking care of his body, which is most important and making sure his mind is in the right place, because I think that’s the most important part of any injury. When he comes back, we’ll be ready to go and hopefully, that’s sooner than later.”
The Lakers absolutely need Davis on the floor to win games, but they can’t have a player who’s unwilling to absorb contact or test his mobility. Davis has to be confident in what he can do, and that’s as much a mental concern as it is a physical one. It’s a good thing he has his teammates’ support in that endeavor.