LOS ANGELES — There was a stretch, brief as it now seems, when the Lakers looked ready to maintain without Anthony Davis.
But coming into Friday night’s game against the high-powered Grizzlies and 1-4 in their last five games, the urgency for Davis to return from a troublesome foot injury suddenly seems a little higher.
Responding to an ESPN report saying Davis could return to the court as soon as next week, Coach Darvin Ham acknowledged that Davis was “trending in the right direction” without pain during his rehab, but declined to confirm. The report indicated Davis could return as soon as a Jan. 28 road game against Boston, which begins a five-game road trip – a timeline reported by Southern California News Group earlier this month.
Still, Ham wouldn’t offer up all of the Lakers’ state secrets on Davis, only allowing that he will be doing individual work through the next few days. Davis worked on offensive scripting and pick-and-roll during practice on Thursday.
“We’ve maintained throughout the process there’s no timeline,” Ham said. “We’re just throwing different things at him, increasing his workload and seeing how he responds and we go from there.”
The Lakers had slightly more concrete news on Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves. Walker, who has missed 11 straight games, is now considered day-to-day with left knee tendinitis, and Ham said he’s expected to be evaluated on Saturday.
Austin Reaves, who has missed eight games with a left hamstring strain, has at least another week on the shelf. Reaves is expected to do more conditioning in the coming week after being limited to treadmill running more recently.
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For Davis, it’s possible that he could return without a full practice with the team – though that’s more a function of the Lakers’ schedule than their preference. The team heads to Portland for a one-off trip this weekend and then has back-to-back home games against the Clippers (Tuesday) and San Antonio Spurs (Wednesday). The Lakers might be squeezed out of a Friday practice opportunity before their flight to Boston for a Saturday game.
“These games are coming at a rapid pace,” Ham said. “You have to balance watching film, touching something on the court, all the while protecting your players’ bodies so they can have the maximum amount of energy to go out and compete when it’s game time. So it’s a constant juggling act. But we’ll look at it.”
The Lakers are one of the teams expected to take a hard look at a move before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, and Ham said it’s “totally” important that the team gets a look with Davis healthy to best determine their needs. But beyond that, the Lakers, who have been stuck outside of the play-in picture all year, want to make up ground in the standings before the mid-February All-Star break arrives.
“We’re not that team that’s looking at our watch waiting for All-Star break to get here,” he said. “We’re looking at it like we need to make up some ground and it’s time and go into the break with a really good rhythm. And he’s a big part of that whenever he returns.”