Pelicans-Lakers Preview

After he criticized Anthony Davis for a perceived lack of effort, New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry ironically lost the All-Star big man to injury when he dove into the stands for a loose ball.

Injuries are starting to pile up for the retiring Kobe Bryant, who has been playing better in recent weeks.

A pair of last-place teams could be missing their star power when the Pelicans visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night to open their season series at Staples Center.

Gentry made headlines earlier this month when he told reporters he thought Davis was "coasting" in a 105-98 win at Dallas on Jan. 2. He added that he was going yell at Davis every day to get him to play harder.

The extra effort Gentry was pushing for got Davis into trouble Friday when he injured his back diving over the first row of seats for a loose ball in a 91-86 home loss to Indiana. The two-time All-Star is questionable after having to sit out Sunday's 114-111 overtime road loss to the Clippers.

''It's just a bruise, and he feels good,'' Gentry said. ''But certain positions or certain moves that he makes, he gets a sharp pain. So it's not worth the risk of putting him out there if he's not fully ready to go.''

Davis had totaled 57 points in his previous two games and 40 rebounds in the previous three. He's averaged 25.0 points, 66.3 percent shooting and 3.4 blocks in New Orleans' five-game winning streak over the Lakers.

The Pelicans, a major disappointment with a 11-25 record, have dropped all four games without Davis this season. Jrue Holiday had 29 points and 11 rebounds and Tyreke Evans added 26 points, seven boards and seven assists Sunday, but New Orleans dropped its third in a row and fifth in six games.

''If we go into every game with that type of effort, we will continue to give ourselves a chance to win," said Holiday, who will play in his native Los Angeles for a second straight game.

The Lakers (8-31), the only Western Conference team with a worse record than the Pelicans, might have to try and snap their four-game losing streak without Bryant. The future Hall of Famer missed three games earlier this month with a shoulder injury and is questionable with a strained right Achilles.

After averaging 15.8 points and 31.3 percent shooting in his first 20 games, Bryant has scored 21.1 per game and shot 41.7 percent over his last 11. He averaged 20.3 points and 36.7 percent from the field while playing in three of the four matchups with New Orleans in 2014-15.

Rookie guard D'Angelo Russell has been upgraded to probable after spraining his right ankle in Friday's 117-113 loss to Oklahoma City. The rookie was coming off a season-high 27-point effort in a 118-115 loss to Sacramento on Thursday.

Fill-in starters Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson totaled 32 points and went 2 for 12 from 3-point range as Los Angeles posted a season-low point total and shot 32.6 percent in Sunday's 86-74 home loss to Utah.

"You get more open shots when (Bryant) is out there, because the entire defense is focused on taking away No. 24," forward Larry Nance Jr., who had 10 points and 11 rebounds, told the team's official website. "When he's not, we take some more contested shots."

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.