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Catch-22: Should Anthony Davis sit or play in back-to-back games?

Hi everyone, I’m Dan Woike, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, and against my will, this is the latest edition of the Lakers newsletter. I would prefer not to work consecutive weeks, but unfortunately my pleas for cargo management have gone unanswered.

So yeah, that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

The decision

It was a game the Lakers needed to win, because, well, they need to win as many as possible.

They played the Houston Rockets, the worst team in the West, on Wednesday night. And because it was the second game in consecutive nights, they did it without Anthony Davis.

The Lakers lost 114-110, halting the momentum they’d built in recent weeks and preventing them from reaching .500 for the first time this season.

The Lakers said Davis is still dealing with stress reaction-related issues in his right foot that he injured earlier this season.

“Even though he’s been playing without pain, we made an organizational decision, starting with our team doctors, to keep him out of back-to-back games,” coach Darvin Ham said Tuesday after the Lakers beat New Orleans. “So it’s just one of those things where even though he’s playing without pain, it’s still an active injury. So we have to monitor it and stick to the plan, like we always have.”

But the plan doesn’t fit well.

The Lakers, like any other organization, start each season with a single goal: to win a championship. If Davis isn’t healthy for the playoffs, the Lakers have zero chance of anything close to a title.

So in that way, sitting him down is a step towards achieving his goals.

But the Lakers have to achieve the first: make the playoffs.

The situation should be incredibly clear for the Lakers, a handful of teams separated by two games vying for a playoff or tournament-entry spot.

Any loss will matter. Without a doubt, a loss to a team that is in the basement of the West will matter. The impact could be severe. It could be the difference between playing a single-elimination play-in match as a ninth/10th seed or a double-elimination situation as a seventh/8th seed. It could mean playing on the road instead of at home. It could put the Lakers out of the playoffs entirely.

The Lakers have said in the past that they have “more than enough” to win and that’s certainly true against the Rockets. However, without Davis and reserve center Mo Bamba, who is out with an ankle injury, the Lakers played almost no protection at the rim.

Houston attacked the basket early, scored easy buckets, built confidence, and finally played spoiler.

Options to prevent this from happening are limited.

The team could have signed a player on a 10-day deal to fill the empty spot on their roster, ideally giving them more frontcourt options after Bamba’s injury.

But there are reasons why those players are available.

While Ham cited locker room chemistry as one reason the Lakers didn’t make a move, it’s probably more down to the talent available than anything else.

The other option, of course, is to play Davis and take the risk.

The Lakers have one more series of consecutive games this season. They play in Utah and then in Los Angeles against the Clippers, two games that could have huge ramifications on the Lakers’ fate.

The safe bet is that Davis won’t be able to play in one of those games either.

Sitting Davis down and prioritizing his health are the most responsible things to do. It’s not sports either.

There is an element of competitive dishonesty in keeping a painless player off the court for high stakes games, though not the highest stakes.

Privately, NBA executives and owners have been concerned about the overall state of the NBA. The ratings continue to drop and regular season games have never felt less important.

All of that was on the line for the Lakers on Wednesday.

If the team can make the postseason with Davis and LeBron James healthy, the Lakers will be in a decent position.

If they had won on Wednesday, it is a guarantee that the position would have been even better.

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Song of the week

The way we get by” by Spoon

It feels good? No. Does it seem like a problem? Yes. But the NBA will move on, players won’t play, injury prevention and management will only gain momentum.

With that in mind, here’s the best “do what you have to do” song I can think of.

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