Anthony Davis won't play for the Lakers any time soon.

His return from a strained Achilles tendon will be measured in weeks — not days — and perhaps quite a few of them. The Lakers have nine games until the All-Star break, including Tuesday at Minnesota, and the trickle-down effect without Davis is a substantial one.

What You Need To Know

  • Lakers center Anthony Davis suffered a strained Achilles tendon and could be out for several weeks

  • With nine games until the All-Star break, Kyle Kuzma is likely to take Davis' place in the team's first five

  • With Davis out, the Lakers will look to LeBron James to shoulder part of the load

For starters, Kyle Kuzma will take Davis’ spot among the Lakers’ first five. This is a good thing for Kuzma. He averages almost 19 points as a starter in his career and only 12 off the bench.

From there, LeBron James will shoulder a larger part of the load, as if he hasn’t been doing that enough lately. Just last week, he played 46, 43 and 41 minutes in consecutive games. Early-season optimism about reduced playing time for the 36-year-old has receded in recent weeks. If the Lakers want to win games without Davis, James will have to invest even more of himself into it.

The need for the Lakers (21-7) to win in the regular season is debatable. The playoffs are still three months away. Whether the Lakers finish first or fifth in the Western Conference is slightly immaterial. After all, they were a dominant 16-5 in last season’s playoffs.

They currently hold the West’s second-best record and need to straighten out a few things to stay within the top four before Davis gets back. (The Lakers, for the record, haven’t released a timetable for Davis’ return.)

They’ll need to improve their three-point shooting immediately. They were a top-three team behind the arc over the first month of the season but have fallen badly the last few weeks. Denver outscored them by 39 points from three-point range Sunday, a numbing stat even if the Lakers hadn’t lost Davis in the second quarter.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a frigid 25% from three-point range over his last 12 games. James and Kuzma have done a lot of good things lately but making threes is not one of them. They’re both hovering near 30% this month.

The Lakers’ defense has also been a recent afterthought. Teams have penetrated the Lakers, dinging them badly in the paint on the way to easy points.

Before losing to Denver by 17 on Sunday, an excused loss because of Davis’ departure, the Lakers trailed Memphis and Oklahoma City by 20 before recovering to win with second-half outbursts against the mediocre opponents.

Without Davis, the Lakers can’t afford to fall behind so early. Their defense must be sharper, a conundrum for sure without their top defensive player.

If this were mid-May, with playoffs a week away, panic would be perfectly understandable. But in mid-February, it’s a nonsensical reaction. There’s just too much basketball left in a season that isn’t even halfway done.



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