PHOENIX — Anthony Davis had a wrap on his right shoulder before the game and tape around his ribs by the end of it, but neither setback stopped him from putting up 24 points and 12 rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 123-115 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
“He wants to play,” said LeBron James when asked about Davis after L.A. pushed its record to 8-2 to start the season. “He wants to play, and we just have to pick it up.
“For him, when he’s showing that grit when he’s playing with injuries, there’s no reason for any of us not to be out there, as well. He’s been showing everything.”
Davis, who has been playing through right shoulder soreness, took a shot to the ribs in the first quarter, eventually retreating to the locker room between the third and fourth quarters to get taped up.
The Lakers said X-rays on his ribs came back negative and that he’ll be reevaluated Wednesday.
“Umm, thank you, LeBron,” Davis said when informed of James’ postgame remarks. “I just want to play. Like I said, it’s tough for me to lead from the sideline.
“The more I can do on the floor to help this team win, that’s what I try to do. I know what our goal is, I know what we’re trying to build. So the more I can try to stay on the floor, the more steps we move toward our goal.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Davis was “playing through a lot of pain,” crediting him for checking back into the game with 8:41 remaining in the fourth quarter and closing things out.
While James praised Davis’ toughness to the media, James did prod at the Lakers’ big man later in the locker room, pointing out how he and Rajon Rondo — who both played high school football — would have shook off a hit to the ribs and stayed in the game. James asked Davis if he would need pads for the next contest as the young superstar playfully shook his head during the chiding.
L.A. plays the second leg of a back-to-back on Wednesday at home against the Golden State Warriors.
Davis would not confirm whether he would suit up.
“We’ll see how the shoulder injury and the ribs feel tomorrow when I get up,” Davis said. “And we’ll go from there.”
Lakers center Dwight Howard, who continued his strong start to the campaign with 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting and nine rebounds off the bench, kept the big picture in mind for Davis.
“I don’t think he has to focus on pounding and grinding as much right now,” Howard said. “Let us do all the dirty work, keep his body healthy and stuff like that, and come playoff time, it’s go time. So we want to make sure to keep him fresh.”
Should Davis be held out against the Warriors, L.A. could be in better position than, say, a week ago, to manage his absence, as Kyle Kuzma showed signs of rounding back to form in Phoenix.
Kuzma scored eight of his 23 points in the fourth quarter — including consecutive 3-pointers inside of three minutes to boost the Lakers’ lead from one to seven — in his most complete effort since returning from a left ankle injury that caused him to miss the first four games of the season.
Vogel said prior to Tuesday’s game that the plan would be to play James in both games of the back-to-back. James told ESPN last week that he planned to play all season so long as he was healthy, rejecting the premise of load management in his 17th season.
Rondo, who made his season debut against the Suns and chipped in five points, seven assists and six rebounds in 14 minutes, has not yet been medically cleared to participate in back-to-backs, so he will be forced to sit against Golden State.
“If [Kuzma] can bounce back and have another great night tomorrow night, that would be huge,” Vogel said. “I don’t know what the status of those guys is going to be, but obviously if this was [Kuzma’s] first or second game back, we’d have a lot more to be concerned about.”