Lakers’ Anthony Davis discusses foot injury, hopes for prompt comeback

ATLANTA — Navicular bone. Edema. Bone stim.

Throughout a 13-minute session with a small group of reporters on Friday night, Anthony Davis unloaded a heap of medical and anatomical terms, most of which he’s learned in the last month.

“I’ve heard every term over the last couple weeks,” Davis said with a grim chuckle.

Medical jargon has unfortunately been the chief descriptor of Davis’ life lately as he navigates a complex injury in the navicular bone in his right foot, near the top where it meets the ankle. For the first time since he suffered the injury earlier this month, Davis was able to offer public insight into the complicated process and the narrow tightrope he’s walking – with a hope to return to the court for the Lakers before long.

The 29-year-old All-Star big man was playing some of the best basketball of his entire career (27.4 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg) until Dec. 16 when he felt a sting in his foot when he landed after making mid-air contact with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. By halftime, he was in enough pain that he couldn’t run.

An initial X-ray showed that a bone spur off the navicular bone had fractured, which Davis said “was tough for me mentally.” Then the next day, he learned that the same bone had a stress reaction, which had the potential to keep him off the court for a considerably longer stretch.

Davis called it “a whole different ball game.” One of the initial options presented to him was surgery to remove the bone spur, adding weeks or even months to the recovery process.

“When they were talking about surgery – well, I don’t like surgery,” Davis said. “I feel like if it can be avoided, then let’s avoid it. When that became an option, I wanted to make sure I get the best understanding for me because I’m the one who has to make the decision with that.”

Davis said he saw four or five doctors over the next week, getting different opinions on his foot. He was stunned, in part, because he had never had foot problems in his career, yet was told that the spur had likely been growing since his college days at Kentucky a decade ago.

In that initial week, the hardest thing for Davis was the pain itself, which kept him from walking at all. Doctors advised him that a follow-up MRI might actually look worse. But Davis got treatment throughout the week on the foot, and there wasn’t serious swelling. His MRI on Dec. 22, roughly a week later, along with the subsiding pain convinced him the non-surgical option might be effective.

Davis is understandably skittish about applying a timetable to his return, but he is scheduled for another MRI when he gets back to L.A. that will tell him if he’s on track. Every other sign, he said, has been positive.

“It’s really just about pain,” he said. “The pain is still there, I still feel it a little bit, not as much as I did before. More like a two (on a scale from one to 10), trending down to one. I’ve been lifting, and lifting is fine. Everything I do in the weight room is fine. If I see that it’s healed properly, or enough where I can go start ramping up on the court, then we’ll start that process.”

The need for him to return is dire for the Lakers, who entered Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks having lost five of seven games without him and ranking dead last in defensive rating (122.5) over that span. Davis said he’s pulled out video clips on the sideline to show teammates and offer insights for adjustments. But there’s no replacing a 6-foot-11 All-NBA talent who is one of the best, most versatile defenders in the league when healthy.

Davis also said he understood teammate LeBron James, who said Wednesday: “I think about that I don’t want to finish my career playing at this level from a team aspect. I’ll still be able to be compete for championships because I know what I can still bring to any ball club with the right pieces.”

One of those pieces the past few years has been Davis, who said he has struggled with missing so much time over the previous two seasons. Including this season, he’s played in just 101 of 190 possible games since the duo helped the Lakers win the NBA title in October 2020. He relates to James’ frustration.

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“I mean he’s not getting any younger,” Davis said of the four-time league MVP, who turned 38 on Friday. “Of course it would only make sense that he would want to compete for championships in the X amount of years he has left in him. So I took nothing from it. I took it for exactly what it was, what he said, and I feel like it’s a true statement.”

If the Lakers can accomplish anything at all this season, it likely relies on Davis getting back to form. Stress reactions can take up to two months to resolve. Davis is clearly angling for an earlier return as long as his MRIs keep looking good, but he noted that if stress reactions heal improperly, he could be out several months. He also acknowledged he’ll “probably” need to get the bone spur removed during the offseason, regardless of how this particular injury heals.

But Davis also seemed, on this particular evening, to be in a good place mentally. He said he wasn’t concerned about losing the rhythm that he had before he got hurt – only eager to get back to work.

“I’m just really excited to get back on the floor, whenever that date is, to pick up where I left off,” he said. “That’s my mindset. Hasn’t been a ‘Man, it’s going to take me X amount of games to get back in rhythm,’ or ‘Might not be the same.’ That’s not even been a thought in my mind. My thought has been, ‘Whenever that day is, it’s go time.’”

“Feeling a lot better. The pain has subsided tremendously” @AntDavis23 with an update and some clarity on his injury.

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) December 31, 2022

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