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Anthony Davis to return to lineup Thursday vs. Mavericks [UPDATE]

Lakers big man was cleared for on-court activities last week and says he’s ready to return.

Should LaMarcus Aldridge be considered for the Hall of Fame?

Update: April 21, 2:51 p.m. — Anthony Davis is hopeful he can return to the lineup on Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks. Davis told reporters on Wednesday he is expected to return as long as he feels OK. We could see AD being listed as questionable or even probable to return. He’s been sidelined with calf and leg injuries since February 14.

Update: April 19, 10:30 a.m. — Anthony Davis continues to be listed as out, but is on the injury report, nonetheless. This is a good sign overall. We could see AD get upgraded at some point and there’s a chance he gets back in the lineup later this week. The Lakers only have three games this week: Monday vs. the Jazz, Thursday vs. the Mavs and a rematch with Dallas on Saturday (both games in Texas). Another three days of rest and Davis could be questionable as soon as Wednesday prior to Thursday’s game. LeBron’s status remains unclear but he’s getting close to his expected return date, which could be at the end of the month (likely next week).

Update: April 15, 8:30 p.m. — Davis has been cleared for on-court activities, Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Thursday night. A return date for AD has yet to be determined, per Vogel.

The Los Angeles Lakers could be getting both superstars back in the lineup soon. Lakers PF/C Anthony Davis could be back in 10-14 days while LeBron James shortly after him in three weeks, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported late Saturday night. Davis is expected to be re-evaluated by team doctors this upcoming week and could be back as soon as a week and a half.

Update: Thursday is the day the Lakers are expected to re-evaluate Davis, per ESPN. So we should get news on AD’s status moving forward today, which is exciting. The 10-day mark from this report would have been Friday. We could end up seeing Davis pop up on the injury report with a designation soon. When that’s the case, we can start to think about return dates. The Lakers face the Boston Celtics on Thursday and are 4-4 in their past 8 games.

AD has been sidelined since Feb. 14 due to a calf strain and tendinosis in his right leg. LeBron suffered a high ankle sprain three weeks ago and has been sidelined ever since after being given a timeline of 4-6 weeks. Since the Lakers lost AD back in February, the team has gone 11-13. The Lakers are 4-7 since James was injured on March 20 against the Atlanta Hawks.

More recently, the Lakers have dealt with injuries to Kyle Kuzma, Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol. At 32-20, Los Angeles is in the 5-seed in the Western Conference and only 1.5 games up on the Portland Trail Blazers, and 2.5 games on the Dallas Mavericks. It’s clear there’s some urgency setting in to get AD and LeBron back in the lineup sooner rather than later. If the Lakers continue to fall in the standings, it’ll mean extra work for both superstars when they return from injury to make sure the team isn’t in the play-in tournament.

The Lakers are still the second-best odds to win it all at +370 and are favored to win the Western Conference and reach the NBA Finals at +125. Let’s say AD comes back in 10 days, which would be April 20. That would give the Lakers 14 games with Davis back in the lineup. If LeBron is right behind AD, let’s say he’s back at the beginning of May or end of the month. James would play 9-10 games before the postseason. If both players are eased back into action, we can’t assume the Lakers go back to normal and run the table down the stretch to get back into the top 3 in the West. It could happen but seems unlikely.

It still feels like there’s a ton of value in the Western Conference betting market. The Utah Jazz (+400), Denver Nuggets (+800) and Phoenix Suns (+1200) all have legitimate shots of representing the conference in the Finals. Even the Los Angeles Clippers at +220 feel like an OK value assuming Kawhi Leonard and Paul George get it together by the playoffs.

It’s also worth noting that LeBron has dropped to 14/1 to win NBA MVP this season. It’s still a long shot but it hasn’t felt like Nikola Jokic or the other players ahead of LeBron really separated themselves that much since the injury. Can James come back for 10 games, take over the League and try and get back into the MVP conversation? If it was anyone but LeBron, I’d say absolutely not.