No designer sweater. No expensive sunglasses. No custom pants.
Wednesday, Anthony Davis was in the standard-issue purple Nike warmups with the team’s iconic golden jersey underneath, the wait for his on-court return about to be over.
In the seconds before he checked in, the San Antonio Spurs pounded the offensive glass to steal two points.
By the time he left the floor seven minutes later, Davis had found a defensive rhythm, swatting two-straight shots to remind everyone what the Lakers had been playing without.
After sitting out 20 games because of a bone spur, a fracture and a stress reaction all in his right foot, the Lakers got their star big man back — albeit in limited action — just in time for a crucial stretch.
Davis led them in scoring and rebounds, the Lakers beating the Spurs 113-104, dominating the fourth quarter.
He scored 21 points in 26 minutes to go with four blocks and 12 rebounds. LeBron James nearly had a triple-double with 20 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, and Patrick Beverley scored 18.
“I thought he looked good,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said after the win. “… Overall, great. A-plus.”
The Lakers begin a five-game trip Saturday in Boston.
“I’m happy for him, first and foremost, I know how frustrating this process has been for him, especially at the level at which he was playing,” Ham said before the game.
“I’m just happy for him, and definitely happy for us.”
Rob Pelinka says the Lakers’ goal remains winning a championship and he’s in touch with other teams about options ahead of the trade deadline.
Davis took a scary-looking fall near midcourt at the end of the third quarter. He landed awkwardly on his right foot after a shot challenge by Zach Collins. Davis got up, the play was reviewed and he made three free throws after it was ruled a flagrant foul.
“I almost fainted,” Ham said. “… That was a huge relief.”
Coming off the bench, Davis understandably looked rusty — much different from the MVP-caliber play he had put together before getting injured Dec. 16.
His first shot came from the free-throw line, Lawrence Tanter announcing “Annnnnthony Davis” just before the ball barely grazed the front of the rim.
The first field goal was a swished three-pointer. He added a finish near the rim, a silky turnaround jumper and a two-handed dunk before the end of the first half.
Ham said he wanted Davis to come off the bench so he’d be available under his minutes limit at the close of the game and that he was comfortable with Davis’ recovery.
“Well I just think he’s gone through some rigorous therapy, weight training, weight bearing exercises, activity on the court — both individually and some group workouts. So we would save him from himself if we thought there was any type of threat or harm that he could do to himself,” Ham said.
Davis checked in to a big applause — some of it aimed at Rui Hachimura, who was standing right beside him.
The Lakers’ newest acquisition also came off the bench for his team debut, looking as comfortable as expected despite arriving in Los Angeles on Monday night.
“We have a video playbook that he has full access to, that he’s been using, looking at. We’ve also physically, manually put him through some scripting. In particularly this morning, we went through that,” Ham said.
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Hachimura hit big shots in the Lakers’ second-half run, working from the three-point line, the block and at the rim. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds and was a team-best plus-17 in 22 minutes.
The Lakers are headed for a small period of adjustment as they become fully healthy — Lonnie Walker IV was upgraded to questionable before being held out for two more days of rest. Austin Reaves has also begun full-speed work on his injured hamstring.
As a result of Davis and Hachimura being available, Ham didn’t use Wenyen Gabriel or Juan Toscano-Anderson in his rotation. Both players helped the Lakers go 10-10 while Davis recovered.
Thomas Bryant, who had replaced Davis in the starting lineup, still started Wednesday but saw a reduction in touches and minutes.
They’re the good kind of problems to have, difficult decisions that matter only once the Lakers and Davis are healthy.