It was not a big surprise from Lakers coach Frank Vogel, but he did confirm what many already suspected: With the Lakers re-opening the season against the Clippers in the Orlando “bubble” on Thursday, Anthony Davis will play.
Vogel’s starting five, he revealed: “[Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] and Danny Green at the wings, LeBron [James] at the point, Anthony Davis will play and will start. And JaVale McGee is the center.”
Davis was last seen on the floor in the Lakers’ scrimmage of the pre-restart slate, against Orlando on Saturday. He sure had an impact: 9 points, 10 rebounds, nine minutes. That was, at least, until Davis was poked in the eye while fighting for a rebound with Magic center Khem Birch.
Davis left the game and did not return. Vogel said that Davis would be day-to-day and, though all indications were that Davis would play against the Clippers, he was listed as questionable on the Lakers’ Wednesday injury report.
Even with Davis back and starting, Vogel said that fans can expect the team to be judicial with playing time, not just in the opener against the Clippers but throughout the eight seeding games before the playoffs begin. The Lakers are 5.5 games ahead of the Clippers and would need to completely collapse to lose the top seed in the postseason.
“We have to continue to be smart with minutes and just look at it as a ramp-up,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game. “We have had significant practice time, plus scrimmages. We are coming off a four-month hiatus. So we will be as intelligent and reasonable with minutes as we can be.”
Lakers Have Championship in Mind
The Lakers, though, still have championship potential. Their last game was a loss to the Nets, a reasonable let-down considering they beat the other top contenders for the NBA title—the Bucks and Clippers—in back-to-back games the weekend before the league shut down on March 11.
The Lakers are without two regulars—Rajon Rondo (who injured his hand) and Avery Bradley (who opted out of the NBA’s return)—but still have enough to win the league championship.
“We played good basketball,” Green said, according to the L.A. Times. “We lost to Brooklyn before the hiatus so we need to have that same focus like are playing Milwaukee or the Clippers and continue to get better.
“We know we have to do better than that to win it, to be the last team standing. We know the Clippers are going to get better. Milwaukee is going to get better. Any of those teams that are here are going to get better. So we have to continue to be as good as that or better to be the last team standing.”
Anthony Davis Changed his Shooting Form
Davis only played 24 minutes in the Lakers’ scrimmages but they were an outstanding 24 minutes. In all, he scored 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and 6-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line.
That’s good news for the Lakers, of course, who will lean heavily on Davis once the NBA playoffs begin on August 16. Davis has had an MVP-caliber year going back to before the season was suspended in March because of COVID-19, averaging 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists, blocking 2.4 shots per game and shooting 51.1% from the field this year.
The shooting has been especially impressive. Davis is also making a career-high 84.5% of his free throws this year, well ahead of the 79.5% he had shot for his career.
“We had to change so much,” Penberthy said. “He was turning his body, his elbow was funny, his hand was coming off the ball differently, his toe was crooked in the front. There were all kinds of little mechanical issues there. He’s such a great player he was able to make up for it and still be highly productive. So we just had to tinker with some of that stuff.”