Lakers News: Frank Vogel Discusses How Much Center LeBron James Will Play With Anthony Davis Out
LeBron James Anthony Davis Lakers
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s unclear exactly how long Anthony Davis will be out with the mid-foot sprain he suffered in the Los Angeles Lakers’ final game before the All-Star break. But in that time, Frank Vogel and the Lakers will need to find a way to stay competitive.

As it stands, they are 6.0 games back of the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, but only 4.5 games up of the 11th-place San Antonio Spurs. Four of their first five games back from the break are against teams above them in the standings.

For Vogel, the next few weeks without Davis will be crucial. And it all comes down to figuring out a team identity without their superstar big man. “We have a unique challenge. Typically you come out of the break looking at your team’s analytics and areas that need to be improved upon and things like that,” Vogel said.

“But we have the unique challenge of we lost Anthony Davis in the last game before All-Star break, so our conversations are really more about who we want to be and style of play, where our identity is gonna be over this stretch. That was a big focus of our meeting and practice today.”

Vogel went into more specifics on how the Lakers will use the center minutes, with Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan looking at increased time.

“We’re gonna need them more. A lot more now than obviously when AD was using up a lot of the center minutes. So we’re gonna need both of those guys.”

The Lakers had a preview stretch where Davis missed time and they turned to LeBron James playing a lot of minutes at center. Vogel discussed if that will again be the case.

“We’ve done a lot of studying the film and analytics from that stretch when Anthony was out, things that worked and things that didn’t work, some things we’re comfortable with going forward. Obviously a lot of lessons were learned during that stretch and hopefully we can be a little better than we were during that stretch.

“There were some real positives with how we were playing small and Bron was playing center, whether or not that becomes a full-time things, it’s probably better to be more of a hybrid of using that lineup in doses. But we definitely looked at that stretch of our season to evaluate who we’re gonna be going forward.”

Vogel also admitted to putting in some extra work during the break to figure out how this new identity was going to work.

“I would say I started a day sooner with regards to that thought process. I spent much of Wednesday just looking at numbers and looking at some film, watching the second half of the Utah game when we played without Anthony. Just putting some thought into what we have to look like coming out of this stretch. But up until then, I was able to just kind of unwind and be with my family.”

The second half of the win over the Utah Jazz is going to be vital for understanding how to win moving forward. The Lakers rallied behind James and Russell Westbrook, attacking perennial defensive player of the year candidate Rudy Gobert without hesitation.

Defensively, they used the activity and length of Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves and Malik Monk to overwhelm the Jazz, forcing them into a number of bad shots. Within that fourth quarter, there is a formula for success.

L.A. is going to need that right out of the gates as they face the L.A. Clippers twice, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks in their first five games.

Carmelo Anthony probable to return

One thing that could provide a boost for the Lakers is the potential return of Carmelo Anthony to the lineup. He has missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury, and the Lakers have clearly missed him in that time.

He is probable to return against the Clippers on Friday, giving the Lakers another desperately-needed scoring punch in the stretch forward.

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