Anthony Davis stood at the end of the Lakers’ introduction line dressed in all black, a smile on his face as he watched his teammates go through their pregame routine.
Davis was unable to play Friday night because of a stress injury in his right foot that the team said would keep him sidelined indefinitely.
Before they played the Charlotte Hornets at Crypto.com Arena, the Lakers said Davis received extensive consultation with the team’s physicians and outside specialists to determine his injury.
Then late in the fourth quarter, the player who started in place of Davis, Thomas Bryant, injured his right shoulder and had to be helped to the locker room with 3 minutes 16 seconds left in the Lakers’ eventual 134-130 loss to the Hornets.
With Davis sitting out his fourth consecutive game — and counting — the Lakers will once again turn to LeBron James to make up for Davis’ considerable absence.
It helped that Russell Westbrook, who sat out the last two games because of left ankle soreness, and Austin Reaves, who sat out the last two because of a sprained right ankle, had both returned.
But even with James producing 34 points and eight rebounds, it wasn’t enough to stop the Lakers from losing their third straight game.
They had one last chance after James was called for goaltending a Gordon Hayward offensive rebound with six seconds left that gave the Hornets a 132-130 lead.
When the Lakers got the ball back, the Hornets double-teamed James, who passed the ball to Dennis Schroder in the corner. But Schroder missed a three-pointer, and that was it for the Lakers.
Reaves had 20 points and Westbrook had 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
The Lakers definitely need all the healthy bodies they can find with a five-game trip on the horizon, starting with a Christmas Day matchup against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
First, though, the Lakers had to contend with the Hornets, who went on a 21-5 run to start the third quarter to open a 16-point lead midway through the period after the score was 67-67 at halftime.
The Lakers closed the gap some, getting to within 97-87 by the end of the third.
Getting back to Davis, it appeared as if he was injured in the first quarter of a home game against the Nuggets on Dec. 16, when he clipped the outside of his foot against the inside of Denver center Nikola Jokic’s leg on a reverse layup. Davis continued to play in that game throughout the first half, but he stayed in the locker room at halftime and hasn’t played since.
Davis had been playing at an elite level this season, having his name mentioned in MVP conversations after averaging 27.4 points (11th best in the NBA), 12.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks (both rating third best in the league).
Davis had sat out six games this season before the Lakers played Charlotte, one because of a non-Covid illness.
“It’s tough on him, man, just his history, and here in recent years, you know not being able to be available its tough. And especially with the year he was having, the level he was playing at, it’s tough for him,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said before the game.
“He’s trying to lend moral support and still be there as a teammate and give great feedback to the guys, give feedback to the coaches. So, he’s still mentally, spiritually involved. He’s not detached from the group. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll get through and hopefully have him back as soon as possible.”
Bryant has started at center in place of Davis and fared well.
In his last three starts, before facing the Hornets, Bryant averaged 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds, shooting 55.8% from the field and 66.6% from three-point range.
Still, not having Davis is a big hole.
“Just definitely looked at the rim protection, the rebounds and the ability to defensively rebound and offensively,” Ham said.
“We’re just trying to figure out ways to make up for that lost production. It may not be the same exact way that he gave it to us, but just try to be creative and see how we can still get points in the paint, instead of depending on him to go get every defensive rebound.”