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Lakers’ Anthony Davis progressing but out at least 2 more weeks

LOS ANGELES — It’s all about perspective: On the one hand, Lakers team doctors determined Friday night that Anthony Davis is progressing in his recovery from a right calf strain and can move to the “next phase of his return to play process.”

On the other hand, that next phase means the Lakers have to trudge at least two more weeks without their All-Star big man.

Davis, 28, is still recovering from the injury that has now held him out of 10 consecutive games. While the Lakers originally estimated a four-week timeframe until his return to play soon after he aggravated the calf in a Feb. 14 game at Denver, the added two weeks mean Davis could miss up to eight more games through a March 26 home game against Cleveland.

The Lakers entered Friday night’s game with a 7-7 record without Davis, who has averaged 22.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game this season when healthy. The Lakers, who are 3-7 without Davis during this current absence, have exercised caution with his latest injury because of its proximity to his Achilles tendon, which is notoriously finicky and is the source of some of the most devastating injuries in sports.

In terms of upcoming matchups, the Lakers will be without Davis for games against Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Phoenix’s DeAndre Ayton, New Orleans’ Zion Williamson and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. Even on Friday night, the Lakers found themselves profoundly lacking size against Indiana’s pair of big men Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.

Lately the Lakers have faced a double-whammy in the frontcourt: Veteran center Marc Gasol missed his third game due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. The length of time Gasol has missed, now 11 days, indicates Gasol himself might have registered a positive coronavirus test, though the Lakers are unable to comment due to privacy concerns. Reserve Kostas Antetokounmpo was also listed out due to COVID-19 protocols.

Against the Pacers, the Lakers started Damian Jones, who signed his second 10-day contract on Thursday. Montrezl Harrell came off the bench. Markieff Morris also maintained a starting role.

“We have two big guys that can man the middle in DJ and obviously Trezz playing bigger minutes off the bench,” Coach Frank Vogel said. “Kieff has been starting, doing good a job with us at the four position and we’ll play with a smaller second unit. That’s kind of the formula I see going forward until those guys (Davis and Gasol) are back.”

If Davis can return in two weeks, the Lakers would have 26 games left in the regular season to get the forward into playoff shape. Davis attended Friday’s game at Staples Center as a vocal participant from his spot on the bench.

One of the biggest challenges might be conditioning. When Davis’ recovery process started, Vogel said he was unable to do much with his lower body. On Thursday while the rest of the team practiced, Davis was restricted to weightlifting and did not participate in the practice.

CARUSO LEAVES WITH BRUISED HEAD

The Lakers took another hit to their already thin depth when reserve guard Alex Caruso hit the court hard on his head during the second quarter Friday and had to go to the locker room. He had played just seven minutes.

The team said at halftime that Caruso was being evaluated for a concussion and would not be able to return to the game with a bruise to the head.

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