The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled without Pau Gasol.
Earlier in the season, the big man missed eight games with tendinitis in his knees. After returning to the court for a month, Gasol suffered another injury. He has missed the last five games due to a concussion, and L.A. has won just two of the five games.
Coming off a 16-point home win against the Milwaukee Bucks, it appears the Lakers could be getting their starting power forward back in time for a key game.
Gasol took part in three-on-three drills in Wednesday’s practice, and said he “feels better,” according to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. He was optimistic about the chances of playing against the Miami Heat on Thursday night.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni also thought there was a chance that Gasol could return on Thursday. Medina reported that D’Antoni said Gasol would have a heavy workout later in the day, and would know on Thursday about his availability.
Gasol has started every game in his career with Los Angeles, but that could change with his return. The power forward has discussed the possibility of coming off the bench, at least when he first returns, with the coaching staff.
The New York Knicks have done the same thing with Amare Stoudemire. After missing the first two months of the season because of knee surgery, Stoudemire now comes off the bench. An All-Star two seasons ago, Stoudemire has yet to start a game, as the team continues to monitor his minutes.
Before his injury, Gasol was largely criticized for his level of play. In 25 games, he has averaged a career-low 12.2 points per game. His 41.6 field goal percentage is also the lowest of his career, and a contributing factor to the Lakers struggles in the first half of the season.
Despite his lack of production, L.A. has been even worse with Gasol out of the lineup. They are 5-8 with him inactive, and 12-13 with him as a starter.
When Los Angeles plays Miami, they will look to record just their third three-game winning streak of the season. They defeated the Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers in their last two games.