Lakers optimistic as Anthony Davis, others work toward return

In no world should 13th feel so good. But there was understandable optimism at the Lakers training facility on Saturday from the third-worst team in the Western Conference.

While the Lakers have stumbled and faltered in the first half of the season, very few teams have found a consistent stride.

“We like the position we’re in,” Austin Reaves said on Saturday. “We’re never satisfied with where we are because you want to win every game, but that was actually the message at the end of training. Let’s run and get a good spot.”

The Lakers have a chance to build some momentum, albeit against some good teams, with six of their next seven home games. More importantly, things appear to be improving for the injured Lakers, a group that includes Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV and is managed by Anthony Davis.

“Lonnie is trending in the right direction, Austin is trending in the right direction, AD looked really good. He was a bit down today,” said coach Darvin Ham. “So we’re well on our way to getting them back in the lineup.”

It won’t be Sunday when the Lakers host Philadelphia, and it almost certainly won’t be Monday if they have the Rockets in the second game on consecutive nights. But if the Lakers can continue to tread water, the conference midfield is still tight enough that they will be in a decent position.

When the Lakers left practice on Saturday, they were just two games away from sixth place in the conference. They were a game short of the play-in tournament, and with games against Portland, Sacramento and the Clippers coming up, there are real chances of making a move.

“If we can string a few wins together — and I think we played good basketball, even with some of the Ls that we had,” LeBron James said. “Lately, the last few months. I think if we can keep playing the game the way we played it and then get healthy it will put us in a good position to see how the table is.”

The getting well part isn’t as complicated as it sounded a week ago.

Ham said Davis was able to do “minimal half-court” workouts while continuing to recover from a trio of foot injuries.

“He’s moving well again. He feels well. And we’re excited,” Ham said. “He’s exactly where he should be according to the plan laid out.”

Reaves has been doing individual work on the pitch with assistant Phil Handy as he nears a return.

“Several people I’ve spoken to say hamstrings are difficult — it’s about getting 100% hits on them,” Reaves said. “Of course I want to play every game. Sitting outside is no fun. I was absolutely insane in the background of the Dallas game. But it is what it is. It’s part of the sport, injuries are part of it. I’m just trying to get it back to 100 and get back as soon as possible.

Reaves last played on January 4 and is scheduled to be re-examined next week. Walker, who has been out since December 28, is also set to be re-evaluated soon.

Patrick Beverley, who missed the last game due to illness, is a doubt against the 76ers on Sunday.

“I mean, I always feel like if we’re healthy, we get a chance. But that’s just… health is wealth. And that’s always been our thing,” James said. “So I feel like if we can get fully healthy and get our boys back and then we can start playing in the games, logging minutes and doing what we’ve been doing – I mean, since before the Christmas break – I think we can string some wins together and be competitive against anyone.

Meanwhile, confidence is growing in the substitutes’ ability to make a difference.

“I think the biggest thing we’ve done is just no matter who was in the lineup, next guys we were absolutely ready,” James said. “No matter what game it was, no matter who was in and out. Injuries or illnesses or illnesses, suspensions or whatever, the next man was ready to go. …

“Imagine the guys just get caught at a point where it doesn’t matter if you play or not, whenever your number gets called you’re ready to go.”

And the preferred goal – climbing the leaderboard – may not be as impossible as it once seemed. Lakers optimistic as Anthony Davis, others work toward return

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