Anthony Davis

Lakers Clear Anthony Davis To Return

It doesn’t appear that Anthony Davis‘ right thumb injury will keep him sidelined into the regular season. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said today that Davis has been cleared to return for Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Warriors (link via ESPN.com).

Davis injured the thumb in the first quarter of the Lakers’ game in Shenzhen vs. the Nets on Saturday. The injury was initially diagnosed as a sprain, which was confirmed after the team returned to Los Angeles and conducted further tests. An MRI on Monday came back clean, showing no ligament damage.

Although Davis is set to return to action, the Lakers are still without another key player. Kyle Kuzma, who is recovering from a stress reaction in his left foot, has been cleared for non-contact activity, but his status for opening night next Tuesday remains up in the air.

NBA/China Notes: LeBron, Silver, Yao, Tencent

After making some eyebrow-raising comments about Rockets GM Daryl Morey and the NBA/China controversy on Monday, LeBron James briefly addressed the subject again on Tuesday, telling reporters that he hopes tension between the two sides dies down. However, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com details, James made it clear that he doesn’t want to continue discussing the situation going forward, preferring to focus on the Lakers‘ quest for a championship.

“I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us,” James said. “We’re trying to win a championship. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not politicians. It’s a huge political thing. But we are leaders and we can step up at times. I’m not saying at this particular time, but if you don’t feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn’t have to.”

James’ critical comments of Morey didn’t go over well in Hong Kong, where protestors chanted support for the Rockets’ GM on Tuesday, per an ESPN report. At that protest, LeBron jerseys were trampled and even burnt.

Here’s more on the ongoing NBA/China situation:

  • Commissioner Adam Silver never did meet with Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming while he was in China, but they were speaking at least 10 times per day, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times.
  • Ganguli also writes that the NBA’s Chinese streaming partner Tencent, which suspended its broadcasts of preseason games in the wake of Morey’s tweet, resumed those broadcasts on Monday without explanation.
  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN shares an engaging deep dive into the Lakers‘ and Nets‘ meeting last week with Silver in Shanghai, providing details on how LeBron and Kyrie Irving spoke up during that session. Among McMenamin’s interesting tidbits: James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and Rajon Rondo all had promotional appearances in China canceled, with one unnamed Lakers player losing a $1MM endorsement deal with a Chinese company due to the controversy. Based on a separate report from Bill Oram of The Athletic, that player may have been Kuzma.
  • In a column on the China controversy, Sam Amick of The Athletic notes that Morey’s initial tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors was sparked by a specific development. Sources tell Amick that Morey’s message came in response to a new law enacted in Hong Kong banning face masks during public gatherings. The law is “widely seen as a tactic to identify dissidents,” Amick adds.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Kuzma, LeBron, China

The Lakers provided some injury news on two of their key players on Monday, issuing updates on Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma.

As we noted on Monday afternoon, an ESPN report indicated that an MRI on Davis’ sprained right thumb came back clean, which the Lakers essentially confirmed late last night. According to the team (via Twitter), AD is being listed as day-to-day after undergoing tests on his thumb, which suggests he still has a decent chance of playing in the team’s regular-season opener a week from tonight.

Meanwhile, Kuzma, who was diagnosed last month with a stress reaction in his left foot, has been cleared for non-contact activity, per head coach Frank Vogel (Twitter links via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN). Asked about Kuzma’s status for next Tuesday’s opener, Vogel responded, “We’ll see,” adding that the forward will also be considered day-to-day.

As we wait to find out whether Davis and Kuzma are ready to go for opening night, here’s more on the Lakers:

  • In his first public comments on the NBA/China controversy on Monday night, LeBron James was critical of Rockets GM Daryl Morey, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. James speculated that Morey was “misinformed” and “wasn’t educated” about the situation in China when he sent his now-infamous tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors.
  • James later sought to clarify his comments in a pair of tweets, suggesting that he meant Morey didn’t understand the ramifications his message would have. James also said the tweet was poorly timed, since the Lakers and Nets showed up in China just a few days later and had a “difficult week.” However, LeBron was still widely criticized for his stance, with Dan Wolken of USA Today calling it “the most disgraceful moment” of the superstar’s career.
  • Mark Medina of USA Today takes a look back at the Lakers’ “difficult” week in China, exploring how they coped with being placed in the middle of an international incident. As Medina writes, Vogel referred to the team’s time in China as a “really productive trip” despite the unexpected drama.
  • Dwight Howard‘s presence on the Lakers’ roster this season is a reminder of what’s at stake for the franchise with Anthony Davis this season, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Howard’s previous one-and-done stint with the Lakers in 2012/13 is, of course, exactly what the team wants to avoid with Davis.

MRI On Anthony Davis’ Thumb Comes Back Clean

The Lakers and their fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as the MRI on Anthony Davis‘ sprained right thumb came back clean today, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Davis injured the thumb in the first quarter of the Lakers’ Saturday game in Shenzhen vs. the Nets. While the injury was originally diagnosed as a sprain and reports suggested there was no ligament damage, the team wanted to conduct further tests upon returning to Los Angeles to confirm that diagnosis.

There’s still no definitive return timetable for Davis, but a clean MRI bodes well. Even if the Lakers’ star offseason acquisition isn’t ready for opening night next Tuesday, it doesn’t sound like he’d miss much time beyond that.

For what it’s worth, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets that Davis and LeBron James are expected to sit out tonight’s exhibition game against the Warriors. The Lakers will play Golden State in two more preseason contests before opening night, so we’ll see if AD suits up for either of those matchups on Wednesday and Friday.

Anthony Davis Suffers Right Thumb Sprain

Anthony Davis exited his third preseason game with the Lakers early due to a hand injury, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com, who says the initial diagnosis is a sprained right thumb. The injury occurred during the first quarter in the Lakers/Nets exhibition game in Shenzhen, China.

While Davis initially kept playing after getting the thumb taped up, he returned to the locker room before the second quarter and didn’t re-enter the game after that. The injury doesn’t sound serious, but AD will undergo further testing on Sunday after the Lakers return to Los Angeles. There’s no X-ray machine at the arena in Shenzhen, notes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that initial tests showed no ligament damage. According to Charania, it’s believed to be a Grade 1 sprain, but an MRI on Sunday should confirm the diagnosis.

The Lakers still have three games – all against the Warriors – on their preseason schedule before they open the regular season on October 22 vs. the Clippers. It remains to be seen whether Davis will play in any of those games against Golden State.

In his first two preseason games as a Laker, not counting Saturday’s brief appearance, Davis averaged 19.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 3.5 APG in 22 minutes per contest.

With the Lakers and Nets having now completed their exhibition games in Shanghai and Shenzhen and set to return to the U.S. on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how the NBA/China controversy plays out from here. Things have been mostly quiet over the last couple days, but the league may be more willing to discuss the situation once all its players are back stateside.

Lakers Notes: AD Trade, LeBron, Pelinka, More

When David Griffin arrived in New Orleans as the Pelicans‘ new head of basketball operations, he was faced with a predicament related to Anthony Davis, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Sources confirm to McMenamin that there was some lingering resentment toward the Lakers within the Pelicans’ organization – all the way up to ownership – due to the way AD’s public trade request played out earlier in the year. However, Griffin also recognized that L.A. was the most logical trade partner for New Orleans.

“When I took over, there was some latent discontent, maybe with the way things had been handled,” Griffin said. “We just talked about the fact that, look, in all likelihood the best package is going to come from this team, because it’s the only team that AD’s willing to stay at.”

As McMenamin details, agent Rich Paul had signaled to the Celtics and other suitors that Davis wouldn’t re-sign with them in 2020, since the big man wanted to play in New York or Los Angeles.

“The last thing you want to do is put a GM in a situation where he trades away an asset and then the guy walks out the door,” Paul said. “Like, you can’t do business that way. So it’s not really a hard conversation to have. And I don’t think it stopped [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge from trying. It’s just that maybe he didn’t have the deal [he wanted]. He wasn’t willing to give up the young players, which I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t give them up either if the guy is not going to re-sign.”

The Pelicans’ big win on draft lottery night helped clear a path for the team to work something out with the Lakers for Davis, as Paul observed to McMenamin: “The fact that [the Pelicans] were going to get the first pick caused me to understand that it softened the blow of losing Anthony Davis because the organization could still have some momentum.”

McMenamin’s story at ESPN provides an in-depth look at several other aspects of the Lakers’ pursuit and acquisition of Davis, as well as the franchise’s adjustment to having him on the roster. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said that even on the day the Lakers and Pelicans reached a trade agreement, there were a couple times he was convinced a deal wouldn’t come together. But the front office persevered in part because they believed they owed it to LeBron James. “When a player of LeBron’s stature puts his trust in the organization,” Pelinka said, “I think there’s an implicit bilateral trust going back, saying: ‘We’re going to do everything we can to put you in a position to win more championships, because that’s what you’re about.'”
  • Pelinka, who added that he believes in treating his superstar players “like partners,” admitted that he has probably had hundreds of three-way calls with James and Davis since the trade as he has solicited their opinions on certain roster moves. “Every single decision. I [have] never been involved so much,” Davis said. “No matter who the player was, he wanted to make sure. It was on everything. And it was like, ‘Wow.’ To the point where I was like, ‘All right, Rob, stop calling me.'”
  • Kendrick Perkins, who was teammates with LeBron in Cleveland and AD in New Orleans, had a hand in bringing the two stars together. The veteran big man introduced Davis to Klutch Sports in 2018 when word got out that he was considering an agent change, writes McMenamin.
  • Rich Paul believes that Davis’ ability to make threes and pass the ball separates him from other stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo. AD’s agent offered the following spicy take: “If you put Anthony Davis on that Bucks team last year, they’d be playing in the Finals. He knows how to make guys better. That’s not a knock to Giannis, but that’s just what [I think].”
  • The NBA was willing to allow LeBron to give up his jersey number (23) to Davis despite the paperwork not being filed in time, but Nike nixed the idea, citing tens of millions of dollars in wasted inventory on James jerseys, sources tell McMenamin.

LeBron & AD “Like A Fantasy Team”

It didn’t take long for the Lakers‘ new duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis to make an impression on the NBA, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Playing their first game together in front of a prime time TV audience, they looked dominant in a 22-point destruction of the Warriors. Although neither played in the second half, Davis finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while James registered 15 points and eight assists.

“AD’s AD,” James said afterward. “I thought he was great from the beginning of the game, just his offset on the offensive end just to be able to get us extra possessions with rebounding. Knocking down shots. I think he had like five dunks in the first half. And communication on the defensive end. He’s a very cerebral player. It was a good start for him.”

The Lakers acquired Davis from the Pelicans in one of the first major moves of the offseason. Although the price was high, with three players and three first-round picks going to New Orleans, L.A. sees th ebig man as part of its foundation for the future and possibly its ticket back to the NBA Finals.

That looks very possible after last night’s debut, which included three straight dunks by Davis in a 43-second stretch of the first quarter. The first came on an offensive rebound, followed by a pick-and-roll with James, then an alley-oop from Rajon Rondo.

“I was just trying to attack the offensive glass and be aggressive and get myself going,” Davis said. “I haven’t played in a while, so I was just trying to do all the little things, and the ball ended up in my hands, so I just went up and dunked it and got myself going.”

New coach Frank Vogel is still figuring out what his starting lineup will look like alongside the two former overall No. 1 picks. Avery BradleyDanny Green and JaVale McGee started last night, but Vogel said he will continue to experiment throughout the preseason.

Regardless, the focus all season will remain on Davis and James, the Lakers’ premier additions from the past two summers, and whether they can make the franchise one of the NBA’s best again. The early returns are impressive, even to opponents.

“It’s different seeing all those big guys on the floor at the same time,” Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell said. “LeBron playing point alongside those dudes. It’s cool. It looks like a fantasy team or something.”

Southeast Notes: Johnson, Turner, Jones, Wizards

James Johnson‘s agent Mark Bartelstein said his client has been absent from the Heat’s training camp because of his weight rather than his conditioning, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports.

Johnson hasn’t been allowed to participate in camp until he reaches that weight goal set by Heat president Pat Riley. Bartelstein said Johnson passed the team’s conditioning test and will return to the team “shortly,” Jackson adds. Johnson has a $15.3MM salary this season with a $16MM player option next season.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce wants to take advantage Evan Turner‘s versatility, Kevin Chouinard of the team’s website tweets. Turner will serve as the backup point guard and will also be employed as a small-ball power forward along with playing the wing. Turner was acquired from the Blazers for Kent Bazemore.
  • Forward Jemerrio Jones is trying to gain a role with the Wizards via his rebounding and hustle, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details.  Jones, who played six games with the Lakers last season as a rookie, has a $1,416,852 salary, but less than $200K is guaranteed. “I go hard in the paint,” he said. “[Fans] are going to like the hustle in me. You gotta pay people to play hard now, but it’s in me.” Jones was acquired in the three-team blockbuster that brought Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.
  • Thomas Bryant inspires his other young Wizards teammates to exceed expectations, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Bryant, who was cut loose by the Lakers, earned a three-year, $25MM contract after replacing injured Dwight Howard as the starting center last season. “The opportunity that he got, making the best of getting cut, it’s incredible for me to observe,” second-year center Moritz Wagner said. “I’m very happy to do this with him together.”

L.A. Notes: Leonard, George, Davis, West, LeBron

Clippers superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George hope to play for Team USA in the Olympics next summer, both players declared at the team’s Media Day on Sunday.

“I would love to. Hopefully, God willing, I can get through a season healthy,” George said, according to USA Today’s Mark Medina (Twitter link). “When that times comes, I’d love to be a part of the Olympics and represent. But this comes first obviously and getting through this year.”

Leonard, who’s coming off a historic championship run that saw him average 30.5 points per game in the playoffs with Toronto, shared the same sentiment as his new teammate.

“I do want to play. But I’m taking it one step at a time,” Leonard said, as relayed by Medina (Twitter link). “Right now, it’s about taking the Clippers to the Finals.”

Leonard and George join several superstars who have already expressed interest in playing for Team USA after a disappointing run in the FIBA World Cup, including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis.

There’s more out of Los Angeles tonight:

  • The Lakers are doing their best to keep Anthony Davis from breaking their hearts by leaving next summer in free agency, Bill Oram of The Athletic writes. Davis, who holds a $28.7MM player option for the 2020/21 season, will almost certainly opt out and seek a maximum salary contract. “I just want to focus on this year,” Davis said. “Coming here, the Lakers definitely welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like this was home, but at the same time, it’s about what we can do this year. We have a special team, special unit, special coaching staff, and we’re going to do whatever we can to focus on this year and try to come out victorious.”
  • Ryan West, son of Hall-of-Famer and current Clippers advisor Jerry West, will work with the franchise in a scouting role this season, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. West recently left the Lakers after spending a decade with the organization, also holding eight years of prior scouting experience with Grizzlies.
  • LeBron James appears to be more engaging with his second stint on the Lakers right around the corner, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes. James, who turns 35 in December, is entering his 17th NBA season. “I’m very motivated, but I’m right now not in the talking-about-it mode,” James said. “I’ve been very quiet this summer for a reason. My mother always told me, don’t talk about it, be about it, so that’s where I’m at.”

Lakers Notes: James, Davis, Dudley, Kuzma

LeBron James wants Anthony Davis to be the focal point of the Lakers offense, he told Josh Peter of USA Today and other media members during the team’s annual Media Day.

“If we’re not playing through Anthony Davis while he’s on the floor, then there’s no sense to having him on the floor,’’ James said.

Davis’ ability to draw double teams is an exciting proposition for James.

“When you’re able to attract two defenders on one guy, then you’ve got the numbers game. … It opens up for other guys on the floor, including myself,’’ he said.

We have more from the Lakers:

  • James gave a ringing endorsement to the front office headed up by Rob Pelinka and the work the group did this summer, Mark Medina of USA Today tweets. They focused on what they can do to make this franchise as competitive as they can be. They exceeded that. They did a hell of a job and I’m happy to be a Laker.”
  • James was hesitant about committing to playing for Team USA in next year’s Olympics, then said he would, Joe Vardon of The Athletic tweets“Umm, I don’t know. I would love to,” LeBron said, adding that it will depend on his health at season’s end.
  • Davis shrugged off comments made by Pelicans executive VP David Griffin that were seemingly critical of him, according to an ESPN report. Griffin was quoted earlier this week as saying, “If sex appeal is your thing and you need a big market, OK. See you later.” Davis was asked for a response on ESPN’s The Jump. “That’s fine. I don’t care,” he said. “I mean like, the past is the past, you know? I didn’t hear that.”
  • Jared Dudley is intent on making Kyle Kuzma a well-rounded player, according to Mark Trudell of the team’s website. “My guy would be Kyle Kuzma. What can I do off the court to help him get to his full potential? He’s really the key for us,” Dudley said.