Lakers Getting Healthy
Though the Lakers won't likely be at full strength this season due to the hip injury of Jordan Hill, they're about to get as close as can be with the expected returns of Pau Gasol (foot) and Kobe Bryant (ankle) on Friday.
If so, it will be just the fourth time all season that Bryant, Gasol, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Steve Blake will all be in the lineup on the same night.
All five practiced with the team on Thursday, and Mike D'Antoni thinks both Bryant and Gasol be available to face the Wizards. The coach said Bryant will "be ready," despite some continued and expected soreness, and confirmed that as long as Gasol doesn't feel any unexpected additional pain on Friday morning, he'll play as well.
Gasol suffered a tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot on Feb. 5 at Brooklyn, and has been rehabilitating ever since. At the front of end of an initial prognosis of 6-8 weeks off the floor, Gasol said he continues to have some pain, but that it's to be expected.
His foot has been good enough to get through consecutive days of practice, including full-court scrimmages, giving him the confidence to return to game action.
"Right now, just looking forward to play some at whatever percentage I’m at now, and improve every game," he said. "Full-speed things, full-explosive things and changing directions at a high speed – those are going to be the challenges."
D'Antoni said Gasol will start alongside Dwight Howard in the front court, though he's not 100 percent certain that will occur in the first game or two. But sooner than later, it's time for the Lakers to see what they have when their best players are on the court at the same time. D'Antoni added it was difficult to measure how that worked out earlier in the season when neither big man was really healthy, and there was little familiarity with a new system.
"I don’t think Dwight was 100 percent," D'Antoni explained. "Now with him 100 percent, that helps. I don’t think Pau was 100 percent earlier in the year. That alone will help. I don’t think Metta (World Peace) was 100 percent. He was having trouble guarding guys on the perimeter, so we had a lot of breakdowns. They’ve kind of corrected themselves lately, but Pau has to get back in conditioning. Metta is good on the perimeter and Dwight is patrolling the middle, so we should be very good defensively."
For further detail, here's what Gasol had to say after Thursday's practice:
Q: On if he experienced soreness from yesterday’s workout:
Gasol: There’s going to be a little soreness for a little bit. Hopefully, like I said, it’ll go away at some point.
Q: On if he’s expected to play against Washington:
Gasol: Yeah, I am expected to play (Friday).
Q: On where his conditioning level is at now:
Gasol: It’s not good. But you work on it and it’ll get better. We’re just going to play limited minutes, not just for the conditioning, but for the foot, too.
Q: On if there are any limitations as to what he can do:
Gasol: A little bit. Just have to get confidence on making explosive moves out there. Little by little, hopefully I’ll get better as far as the confidence and pain level, and be able to do more things. Right now, just looking forward to play some at whatever percentage I’m at now, and improve every game. Full-speed things, full-explosive things and changing directions at a high speed – those are going to be the challenges.
Q: On Howard’s play of late:
Gasol: It’s hard to talk for someone who’s been through an injury and surgery you haven’t been through. But he’s moving better, he’s been more active and we need that consistently from him if we want to be successful.
Q: On his goals in his first game back:
Gasol: Win. Do whatever it takes to win. The minutes I’m out there, be productive and get some rhythm and get conditioned, and help my team win.
Q: On if he’ll be wearing a special orthotic in his shoes:
Gasol: We built up a special orthotic to give you more support. It’s been challenging to adjust to the orthotic as well. I’m rehabbing and (putting) my full body weight on it, so it’s been a little bit of a challenge because we had to make different adjustments to the orthotic as we progressed.