After the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on February 28, Anthony Davis sent a strong message to LeBron James.
Davis told reporters that he doesn’t want James to rush back from his right foot injury.
“What I don’t want is him to rush back really early. …I want him to get completely right and healthy before he steps on the floor,” Davis said. “Like I said, it’s on us, other guys in this locker room, to step up and continue to win basketball games.”
James could miss several weeks after injuring his foot on February 26 in a win over the Dallas Mavericks, according to multiple reports. The Lakers “are bracing for his absence to be multiple weeks,” according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
The Lakers lost to the Grizzlies by 12 points even though Davis put up 28 points and 19 rebounds. Los Angeles had no one who could guard Memphis superstar Ja Morant, who finished with 39 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. With the loss, the Lakers dropped to 5-10 without James this season.
The Lakers Could Crumble Without LeBron James
Even though Davis is one of the best players in the NBA and the Lakers have good depth after making several moves at the trade deadline, the team could crumble without James, who is averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists this season.
“They have to win at an unprecedented level without James,” The Athletic’s Jovan Buha wrote on February 28. “This season, the Lakers have been outscored by 199 points in the 1,268 minutes James has been off the floor — by far the most significant figure on the team (Davis is a distant second at minus-128 in the 1,733 minutes he’s been off the floor). The Lakers have been outscored by 2.4 points per 100 possessions without James — a 10.2-point-per-100-possession swing from when he’s on the floor (plus-7.9 per 100 possessions).”
The Lakers are in 12th place in the Western Conference standings. They are one game out of the 10th spot in the West and three games out of the sixth spot. The top six seeds in the conference automatically qualify for the playoffs, while teams 7-10 make the play-in tournament.
Anthony Davis & D’Angelo Russell Have to Step Up While LeBron James Is Out
Davis and Russell are the All-Stars on the Lakers with James out. Buha believes both players are under significant pressure to perform at a high level.
“There will inevitably be considerably more pressure on Davis to shoulder the offensive burden in James’ absence. He’ll be the clear-cut No. 1 option offensively and have a chance to return to his MVP-caliber form from earlier in the season. The Lakers have gone away from him far too often offensively recently. That should change starting in Memphis. However, Los Angeles will have to find the requisite balance to ensure it doesn’t overwork Davis, considering his lengthy injury history,” Buha wrote. “D’Angelo Russell, an All-Star with Brooklyn in 2018-19, averaged 20-plus points per game over various spans in Brooklyn, Golden State and Minnesota. He’s also under pressure as he’s an impending free agent. If he helps carry the offense and plays like a fringe All-Star, he’ll be much better suited to justify the rumored four-year, $100-plus million contract he’s looking for this summer.”