Growing Concern Lakers Star Could Miss Opener

Lakers LeBron James and Anthony Davis

Getty Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to officially restart their season on Thursday against the Clippers, but they might have to do it without superstar Anthony Davis.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel revealed on Tuesday that Davis is still dealing with some discomfort in his eye following an eye poke he suffered during the team’s second scrimmage. Davis did not practice on Tuesday and did not play in the Lakers’ final scrimmage on Monday.

Anthony Davis got hit in the eye and is heading back to the locker roomLakers vs Magic – Scrimmage #NBA #mlghighlights #mlg2020-07-25T16:37:11Z

“He’s day-to-day, and while he’s still dealing with discomfort there is some concern that he could potentially not play Thursday. But we’re hopeful that he does, and we’ll see how that plays out. He’s going to continue to be evaluated each day,” Vogel said, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

The Lakers have been living by the “next man up” mantra — but that’s hard when it comes to Davis, who is a unique specimen of a player. The former No. 1 overall pick averaged 26.2 points per game along with 9.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists before the NBA was put on hold. He was also a Defensive Player of the Year candidate with 2.4 blocks and 1.4 steals per game.

Kyle Kuzma Ready for Larger Role

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With Davis out, the Lakers would rely more on Kyle Kuzma to produce out of the starting lineup. Kuzma looked sharp in the Lakers second scrimmage, scoring a game-high 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting while knocking down five 3-pointers.

“What he did today,” Vogel said after the game, “he did all through our ‘restart training camp’ so to speak. I’m just really excited about what the restart is going to look like for him.”

Kuzma said he spent much of the four-month break in play refining his jump shot and getting stronger, which has been evident on the court.

“I just been in the league long enough to know what I need to fix and just a lot of self-reflection,” Kuzma said, per The Athletic. “Just little things that help my confidence.”

There’s been some debate during the season on who the Lakers “third guy” is, but Kuzma has made a case to be the no-doubt third option.

“Our third guy is Kyle Kuzma,” Dudley said last month from the bubble, per Ryan Ward of Clutch Points. “Now, has Kyle Kuzma been exactly consistent to the point where you have him as the third guy? I think people have to realize it’s him being behind AD, and Bron being able to move to the four sometimes takes his full minutes, but any time AD has missed a game, I guarantee if you look at those numbers he’s averaging over 20.”

Kuzma took some time to adjust to more of a sixth-man role this season after starting more than 100 games through his first two seasons. Kuzma averaged just 12.5 points per game and 4.5 rebounds, but showed his ability in spurts when given more minutes to work with in his seven games where he played out of the starting lineup.

He has had eight games over 30 points this season, playing more than 30 minutes in five of those matchups. Kuzma’s best game of the season was a 36-point explosion against Oklahoma City where he played nearly 40 minutes.

Anthony Davis Will Be Missed on Both Sides of Court

If Davis does miss the game, his contributions on both ends will be missed. While his offensive capabilities are evident, his superstar teammate LeBron James and Vogel have put him in a class of his own when it comes to the defensive end.

“He’s the best defender in the league from a versatility standpoint,” Vogel said.

“He does everything,” James added. “He’s able to protect the rim, he’s able to guard in the post, he’s able to switch out to guards, he’s able to block shots when guys are shooting floaters and runners. Get steals. … He does everything defensively for us. That’s why he’s Defensive Player of the Year. There’s not one thing he doesn’t do well defensively.”

The Lakers are also monitoring the status of Dwight Howard, who is experiencing knee soreness. Howard has had a resurgent season back in Los Angeles, providing a spark at the center position off the bench with 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He’ll be a free agent after this season.

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