Anthony Davis’ long-awaited return finally took place against the Dallas Mavericks and as initially thought, it will take a while for the center to get back to the form that has made him the player he is. For Frank Vogel, it’s all about managing Davis’ return with the right conditioning over the next month. The obvious temptation is to force more minutes upon Davis as LeBron James also sits on the sidelines but the Lakers coach has ruled that out as an option. Instead, the 47-year-old will rely on the recommended conditioning required to get Davis back to full fitness after suffering a right calf strain and right Achilles tendinosis injuries.
Fans will see that extended comeback plan in action when Davis gets back on the court again over the next few weeks. Having already missed 30 consecutive games, Vogel’s insistence on Davis playing no more than 20 minutes at first was the correct call and a short 17-minute cameo against the Dallas Mavericks proved Vogel to be as good as his word. We know in the past that the Lakers coach had said the following on the matter “the biggest thing is conditioning right now, he’s healthy, but having not played and not really being able to ramp up his physical on-court activity over the last two months, it’s going to take some time before he gets his wind under him and, obviously, that’s the biggest thing.”
Those cautious words from Vogel may be frustrating to hear for Lakers fans but the general rule of thumb is that you can never be too cautious when nursing a player back to health who has suffered this type of specific injury. The biggest fear is that Davis’ weight is not under him upon his comeback and if that proves to be the case, history tells us that the complications that arise for a further setback are particularly lengthy.
So the fact that Davis was able to get through his first encounter unscathed is a good sign, even if his performance was slightly underwhelming during the 115-110 loss. In many respects, that was always going to be the case and the positive was that he looked back to his athletic best in terms of physique.
The saving grace for the Lakers is their position in the Western Conference table right now with a playoff spot looking a lot more likely as the season begins to count down. In fact, the latest NBA sports betting online odds show that the Lakers are at just +350 to defend the championship they won in 2020. But it still goes without saying that Vogel’s men need to find some much-needed momentum over the month of May in order to avoid the worst case in the potential NBA playoffs scenarios.
As things stand, however, Vogel still has the luxury of being careful in a bid to ramp up the fitness of his side as they close in on an 18th NBA Championship. Indeed, the roadmap to recovery for his various players is provided in his constant injury updates means that when the intensity of the playoffs arrives, the Lakers will be at full strength.
In LeBron James’ case, he is through the worst of his right ankle sprain suffered on March 20th and is currently being limited to light court work in a bid to be fully fit by mid-May at the very latest.
All in all, the Lakers’ form over the last month bodes well when you consider that they have managed to scrape together enough wins to stay competitive in the Western Conference whilst their star men have been absent. Frank Vogel knows the importance of timing when chasing NBA Championships and this is why he continues to err on the side of caution with regards to his star men.