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By Sam Smith | 5.12.2015 | 6:00 p.m.
It didn’t sound good or look good for Pau Gasol, sidelined again Tuesday for Game 5 of the Bulls/Cavaliers Eastern Conference semifinal series, though Gasol was hopeful he could push toward a return for Game 6 Thursday.
“We’re hopeful,” Gasol said in an impromptu session with reporters outside the team locker room before Game 5. “Game 6 it will be a critical game either way; tonight’s a critical game, but I just can’t run. Hopefully, if I’m able to run, able to play a certain percentage above 50 percent I would try to give it a go. Can’t get ahead of ourselves with this thing because, unfortunately, hamstring are tricky, are not like other areas. I’ve played with groin strains, quad strains, the calf thing early in the season I had to miss three games. Hamstrings are not easy so try to do the right thing for our team and our chances.”
The Bulls declared Gasol out for Game 4, and as much a setback as it is for the Bulls after Gasol’s 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Bulls Game 1 victory in Cleveland, it’s crushing for Gasol in his quest to return to a championship after his free agency decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Very difficult,” said Gasol, who led the team in total minutes played this season. “It’s very hard for me not to play at this time when we need everyone on the floor. It’s hard to have missed the other day’s game. I feel I can make a difference on the floor and help the team have a better chance and tonight, also. I remain hopeful, I remain positive I can be back for the series. But at the same time try to support my teammates in any way I can.”
Gasol termed himself about 40 percent with a Grade 1 strain he said was “not a terrible strain.”
Still, the delicacy of hamstring injuries are such they could easily lead to a tear and months out.
“I feel it’s improving,” Gasol said. “I think we are doing everything we can to get me on the floor as soon as possible; today was a good day. I was able to do a little bit of running. So see tomorrow if we can increase it, do more stuff, see how it recovers, reacts, stay positive.
“Hamstring strains are very tricky,” Gasol reiterated. “I had two in my career. One I was out a month and one I was two and a half weeks. It’s been four days since this one. I don’t anticipate being out that long; otherwise I would be pretty much done. Right now we are just staying positive; everyone is working hard so I can be out there the sooner the better because we are in urgency situation right now. Hopefully tonight will be a good night for us and I think our team is ready to play and if we get a win it would be great.”
Gasol said it was too soon to make a prediction regarding Game 6.
Gasol’s pick and pop game with Derrick Rose in Game 1 was in many respects the difference and the story after Game 1. LeBron James credited the Bulls for the plans he felt the Cavs didn’t counter well enough. But then Gasol said the hamstring acted up in Game 2 when he had 11 points and four rebounds.
“Second game here, it started to tighten up on me,” Gasol said. “I think it was the third quarter I started feeling it was cramping up. Then third, fourth minute of that third game (when Gasol had six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes) is when I really started to feel discomfort. I tried to push through it until the third quarter, where I literally couldn’t run anymore, couldn’t push off it, pretty much limping going up and down the floor.
“That’s when Jeff (trainer Tanaka) took me out because I could have injured it more severely,” said Gasol. “I don’t remember a specific motion that caused the injury. I felt like it was increasing in discomfort until a point I just couldn’t go, couldn’t push off anymore, couldn’t run normally anymore. It was painful from that point on. Running at full speed, changing directions, jumping. Exploding off the leg. (Those are) still steps I need to get done in the next 48 hours in order to be able to play an NBA game.”