Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis re-aggravated the tendonosis above his right Achilles during the second quarter of L.A.’s matchup with the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, forcing him out of the 2020 Western Conference Finals rematch.

Davis could be seen grabbing his right calf area after a drive against Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Davis attempted his two free throws before the Lakers committed a foul on the next possession to sub their All-Star big man out of the game prior to halftime.

Davis will now undergo an MRI on Monday.

Without their two-way star, a noticeably-dejected Lakers group wilted at Ball Arena, falling 122-105 in their most lopsided defeat of the 2020-21 season.

Anthony Davis cleared to play vs. Nuggets

Frankly, it was mildly surprising that Davis laced it up on Sunday, as it wouldn’t have shocked anybody had he stayed home for the Lakers’ two-game road trip through Denver and Minnesota. Naturally, his injury begs the question as to whether he should have made the excursion into freezing climates and high altitude at all.

“He just aggravated what he had last week … we’ll know more after an MRI tomorrow,” Lakers head coach Vogel said in his postgame Zoom with reporters. Vogel didn’t speculate on the injury beyond the initial diagnosis of an “Achilles strain.”

However, Vogel did indicate that Davis was cleared by the team’s medical staff. “We’re not gonna put him out there if he’s at risk. If the medical team clears him to play, he plays.”

Davis has been dinged up by numerous ailments this season, resulting in five missed games, including consecutive contests against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center last Monday and Wednesday. He returned to drop 35 points on 16-0f-27 shooting in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

Davis entered the day averaging 22.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season. The Lakers are 4-1 in games AD has missed so far this year. 

Was Anthony Davis injury mismanaged?

After the Grizzlies dub, Davis said that his Achilles—or, rather, the area right above it—felt “great” for most of the game … until it didn’t.

“As you play, you’re always using that Achilles tendon, and it got sore towards the end just because I was constantly moving on it,” Davis said postgame.

Davis added he experienced soreness as early as two weeks ago. Last Thursday, the seven-time All-Star endorsed a cautionary approach to his injury.

“If it was a quad or finger, anything like that, I wouldn’t mind playing,” Davis told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on Thursday. “But I just don’t really want to play around with an Achilles.”

“I just don’t want to play a game where I still feel it and then get hurt and now I’m out for the playoffs or whatever or for multiple weeks, where it’s something I can’t control and maintain right now where you miss two games or three games early on in the season or midseason and be ready to go for the rest of the season.”

Clearly, there has been some inconsistency between Davis and the team considering that, since those remarks, Davis played in both outings. After Sunday’s re-aggravation, one can only wonder whether Vogel and the medical staff would like a mulligan on their injury management.

Davis said “he felt great coming back the first time” against Memphis but acknowledged that he can be “smarter” about his treatment, even though he thinks he was “smart” about it the first time.

Regardless, AD pushed back on the notion that he rushed back to the court.

“Today was the first day where it felt completely fine … didn’t feel it at all this morning,” he said following the Nuggets loss. He added that his rehab was heading in the right direction until “another setback” on Valentine’s Day.

 “I felt like I was ready to go,” Davis continued. “Training staff felt like I was ready to go. Memphis game it felt fine, woke up the next day it felt fine. I think we did all the right stuff to come back … all today it felt great. Felt great in the first quarter … until the last play. … the way I moved and stepped just re-aggravated the injury, but I don’t think I rushed to come back.

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“You don’t want to mess around with this type of injury,” Davis re-iterated. “Just trying to figure out the best steps after receiving the information from the MRI tomorrow.”

Davis had 15 points and four rebounds before leaving the game with about two and a half minutes remaining in the first half.

Next man up for Lakers

The Lakers came down from their seven-game win streak in the Mile High City. LeBron James led L.A. with 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight dimes.

The loss dropped the defending champions to 21-7 on the season and improved the Nuggets’ record to 15-11. The Joker recorded a triple-double (23/15/10) in three quarters, while Jamal Murray topped all scorers with 25 points.

AD’s injury aside, Michael Malones’ team was dialed in from the jump and looked on their way to avenge the Lakers’ 113-94 rout on Feb. 4.

Of course, the status of Davis’ Achilles area and Monday’s MRI will be the main focus in Lakers world for the next 24 hours.

“All I care about is his health,” James said afterward. “I want him to be healthy … our team needs him to be healthy.”

The Lakers’ leader also said he hopes Davis does whatever “due diligence” necessary to recover, regardless of how long it takes. “No rush, no timetable,” he insisted.

That next-man-up may very well be Kyle Kuzma.

Last week, both Kuzma and Markieff Morris got a chance to start in AD’s absence. Kuzma is the more effective (and better) player, though the inclusion of Morris—a fringe yet capable player—allows Frank Vogel to keep his second unit intact.

Kuzma has received plaudits from James, Vogel, and others throughout the season for sacrificing his scoring in favor of the little things.

“Obviously, it’s tough for him,” Kuzma said of AD. “We know he’s been dealing with a bunch [of injuries] … going back o the bubble … but it’s always next man up mentality.”

Kuzma’s per-game scoring average is down in 2020-21, though he has never played better all-around basketball–including a career-high 8.7 rebounds per-36 minutes and priceless hustle plays seemingly every night.

Ironically, he may need to re-discover his scoring touch if Davis is forced to miss games. Kuzma averaged 17.3 points per game over his first two seasons, compared with 12.2 PPG since the start of 2019-20.

“My approach is the same,” Kuzma said about his role should Davis miss time. “Get every rebound  … play with a big spirit, a lot of energy, a lot of edge. We’re going to see where it takes me.”

The Lakers will face the Timberwolves (7-20) at the Target Center on Tuesday before returning home for a primetime showdown with the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.

James acknowledged that while losing AD is “a tough blow cause he was playing so well,” at least the Lakers will now “have an ability to prepare” for his absence ahead of the Wolves game and beyond.

Until the MRI results come back, the LakeShow will be on pause as the organization and its fans hold their breath.