ATLANTA — Reluctant to invite outside expectations surrounding his return date but clearly encouraged by the progress he’s made so far, Los Angeles Lakers star big man Anthony Davis spoke to reporters Friday for the first time since suffering a stress injury in his right foot two weeks ago.
“Feeling a lot better, pain has subsided tremendously,” Davis told a small group of L.A.-based reporters before the Lakers played the Atlanta Hawks. “I think the next step is [the foot] healing right now. I don’t want to use timetables because that’s a whole different thing, but it’s healing pretty quickly.
“So when we get back to L.A., we’ll do another image of the foot, and see how far it’s healed.”
Davis detailed the complex injury he is dealing with. A bone spur fractured off the navicular bone in his right foot. That same navicular bone — which is located at the top of the foot between the ankle and the toes — has a stress reaction which first appeared in a game against the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 16 when his right leg collided with Nikola Jokic in the paint.
“That one move, I guess kind of caused whatever it caused,” Davis said. “So when I went to get an X-ray at halftime, it was bothering me, it was very painful.”
The injury was identified before it could get worse. “The stress reaction [can lead to] a stress fracture, and that’s a whole different ballgame,” Davis said.
The pain initially registered as a nine out of 10, according to Davis. In the weeks that have passed, that number has come down to a one or a two.
Davis said he received an MRI on the foot Dec. 22 and the Lakers shared the imaging with five doctors and foot specialists to determine a recovery plan. One option available to him would be to undergo a procedure to remove the bone spur. One doctor surmised that the bone spur was present in his foot since his college days at the University of Kentucky more than a decade ago, it just hadn’t caused him any problems.
“I don’t like surgery,” Davis said. “I feel like, if it can be avoided, then let’s avoid it.”
Sidestepping the surgical route, Davis and the Lakers’ medical staff opted for a process that will take time for rest and recovery and then a ramp up toward a return.
Just how much time will it take? That remains to be seen. Davis will undergo another MRI when the team returns to L.A. next week and if it comes back clear, he will begin treatment on the injury including shockwave and bone stimulation therapy.
Even if Davis can return to the court to finish off the 2022-23 season with the Lakers, he knows that surgery could be necessary down the line.
“Something to consider, in the offseason, to remove [the bone spur],” he said. “I think the biggest thing is the stress reaction, though, just monitoring that. Because that can definitely lead to six, seven, eight months out — which I would rather take four weeks than seven months. I’m not saying I’ll be back in four weeks — but hopefully.”
“I’m just really excited to get back on the floor. [It] hasn’t been a ‘Man, it’s going to take me X amount of games to get back in rhythm,’ or, ‘Might not be the same.’ That’s not even been a thought in my mind. My thought has been, ‘Whenever that day is, it’s go time.'”
The injury interrupted a brilliant bounce-back season for Davis in which he was averaging 27.4 points, while posting career bests in rebounds per game (12.1) and field goal percentage (59.4%), along with 2.1 blocks per night.
This, after Davis missed more than half of the Lakers’ games the last two seasons because of various injuries.
“It was tough for me mentally just because of the fact that coming off last year with the injuries, and coming out and having a mindset of getting back to who I want to be as a player, in that mold,” Davis said. “For something like this to happen was tough mentally.”
For now, there is reason for cautious optimism, however.
“He’s trending in the right direction,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Everything he’s being asked to do he’s done and continues to do. We all feel comfortable, starting with our medical staff.”
Davis is eager to pick back up where he left off.
“I’m just really excited to get back on the floor,” Davis said. “[It] hasn’t been a ‘Man, it’s going to take me X amount of games to get back in rhythm,’ or, ‘Might not be the same.’ That’s not even been a thought in my mind.
“My thought has been, ‘Whenever that day is, it’s go time.'”