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Lakers’ Anthony Davis cleared to practice, nearing return

Lakers’ Anthony Davis cleared to practice, nearing return

LOS ANGELES — The first fans who ventured into their seats in the bowl of Staples Center early were richly rewarded with a sight very few have seen of late: Anthony Davis taking shots on the court.

Almost two months to the day when he started his latest stretch of missed games, the Lakers’ All-Star big man was sweating into his black headband as he dribbled and pulled up off of passes from assistant coach Mike Penberthy. And it won’t be long before he’s back in the lineup, the team announced Thursday night.

For the first time since aggravating his right calf since Feb. 14, Davis has been fully cleared to practice – the step which will allow him to begin “his real ramp up.” Coach Frank Vogel predicted that Davis, who was averaging 22.5 points and 8.4 rebounds before he got hurt, could return in a week when the Lakers play at Dallas next Thursday.

“He’s eager to get back out, that’s the biggest thing,” Vogel said. “He’s tired of being a patient and ready to be a player again. So, he’s eager to get to work in real practice the next few days – live work – and even more eager to get back on the floor and obviously that’s going to give our whole group a big lift.”

Davis has missed 28 consecutive games, more than he’s played all season (23). Even during the stretch when he could play, Davis acknowledged that he was dealing with a calf injury for much of the season, which affected his Achilles tendon – a notoriously treacherous area for injuries. Vogel said he’s “unlikely” to play in either of two upcoming games against the Utah Jazz (Saturday and Monday), but the Lakers have two off-days before a four-game trip that could help incorporate the 6-foot-10 forward.

Vogel stressed that Davis – who the Lakers once described as missing between four and six weeks – did not suffer a setback, but the longer-than-ideal timeline was due to caution.

“Obviously it’s been quite some time since he initially got hurt, but there was a mindset to go through this type of process and to really strengthen the muscle and the area around it to this point. This isn’t the result of any type of setback or anything like that, it’s just a longer-term plan to make sure the muscles are fully recovered.”

That caution will continue when Davis returns to play: The Lakers plan to play him limited minutes whenever he does rejoin the lineup. Vogel estimated Davis might only play 15 minutes in each of his first two games back.

“Especially with the nature of practice and how short-handed we are, he’s going to have to use some games to try to get himself back in shape. So the first two games he’s back will likely be short-minute performances.”

As has become the late-season custom, the Lakers had a lot of men missing in action. Center Andre Drummond skipped another game after his injured big right toe experienced swelling. Vogel said it had been stepped on against Brooklyn last weekend, and the center had played through pain in back-to-back games against New York and Charlotte.

Forward Markieff Morris missed another game with a left ankle sprain, while point guard Dennis Schröder started despite what Vogel described as an infection in the ball of his right foot.

MICHAEL JORDAN TO PRESENT KOBE BRYANT AT HALL OF FAME

Back in February 2020, one of the all-time great competitors known for a merciless spirit was reduced to tears when remembering Kobe Bryant, who he called a “little brother” and “close friend.”

“You have a sense of love for him and the way that he can bring out the best in you,” said Michael Jordan, his face streaked as he spoke at Staples Center. “And he did that for me.”

Jordan will do at least one more favor for Bryant on May 15, when he inducts the late star into the Basketball Hall of Fame, a ceremony that has been delayed from 2020 and relocated to Uncasville, Connecticut because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Basketball Hall of Fame presenters are asked to do so by family members in the case of Bryant, who is being inducted posthumously.

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