If you don’t pay close attention to Anthony Davis’ tone, the jokes can pass you by.
On Thursday morning, the Lakers forward participated in a video conference with reporters and one asked how he’d spent his time during the pandemic.
“Oh, I got so fat,” Davis deadpanned. “I was eating burgers every day.”
A little smirk then appeared on his face and he followed the jest with a serious answer about playing video games and staying in shape.
The truth is that Davis feels better than he has in a while. The four-month break for the COVID-19 pandemic gave his body a chance to heal from the nagging injuries that he’d been playing through this season. Now he believes the Lakers have a better chance at winning an NBA championship this year than they did back in March when the league suspended operations.
“If anything, our chances got higher and it’s going to be about just who wants it more,” Davis said. “Everybody kind of had a decompression of the season and obviously with stuff going on, but it’s about what team wants it more and which team can stay healthy.”
The latter part comes with a challenge. Although Davis says he is “100% healthy” and his body reacted well to the break, returning to action comes with potential pitfalls. The Lakers are making preparations to be mindful of those challenges as they head to Florida.
“Being able to react on defense is something no one has done league-wide for four months,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “There’s muscles involved, there’s instincts involved. All those types of things have been dormant, so to speak. They’ve just gotta be, hopefully, brought back in a relatively quick fashion and at the right pace. We’re very concerned about going too fast once we get going. We gotta do enough to make sure we’re ready to compete and win games too.”
The Lakers are taking extra medical personnel to Florida to help strike that balance and guard against consequences when they don’t get it exactly right. With a limit of 35 people, including 17 players, in their travel party, that’s meant some areas of basketball operations will be thinner than they’d like.
But with an older roster, health has been a priority all season.
Davis’ body was something he had to manage all season. At different times, Davis dealt with injuries to a shoulder, elbow, ankle,knee and his backside. He missed a total of eight games due to these injuries, but often played through the pain, earning the admiration of his teammates.
“I think it starts with the toughness factor that he showed throughout the season,” Vogel said. “Both of our leaders, LeBron [James] and AD, had the mind-set to play through minor nagging injuries and if there’s a way to be on the floor, be on the floor. That sets a great tone for our group. For the mental toughness that we’re going to have in competing to win games.”
The rest was enough. Davis said he didn’t need to undergo any procedures to help repair his body.
“We were definitely hitting a mark where we were playing a lot of games in a lot of days and we’re getting toward the end of the season where we’re trying to solidify that first-place spot in the West and even overall,” Davis said. “So we were playing a lot of games, a lot of minutes, it was just more so letting everything rest and heal on its own.”
His own assessment of himself gives him confidence and it was echoed by Vogel, who got to see Davis and James up close this week for the first time in months. While Vogel never took for granted the type of talents he was coaching, the break deepened his appreciation.
“Watching them work and seeing what they’re capable of doing and just thinking back of where we were at, it gives me a great deal of confidence about what we’re about to endure in terms of going down to Orlando in a closer playoff setting and into the playoffs,” Vogel said. “What we can accomplish. Just watching those guys work gives me a great deal of confidence.”