After weeks of reserves playing larger roles, the Los Angeles Lakers are finally close to getting back two of their top players.
Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have missed a combined 31 games in the 2012-2013 season. Now, L.A. could have both back by Christmas.
In just the second game of the season, Nash went down with a fracture in his left leg. The injury has kept him sidelined for almost two months, leaving the Lakers without a quality option at point guard. Darius Morris and Chris Duhon have started in Nash’s absence, but have failed to run Mike D’Antoni’s offense effectively.
With Nash’s return to practice on Monday, his return appears imminent. A source close to the point guard has confirmed to ESPNLosAngeles.com that he hopes to play on Saturday, when the Lakers face the Golden State Warriors. The team source believes the chances of Nash playing in the contest are 50-50.
If Nash isn’t ready by this weekend, he should be good to go in the team’s next game. Los Angeles will host the New York Knicks on Christmas Day.
Gasol will return even sooner. He’s set to start on Tuesday in the Lakers game against the Charlotte Bobcats. The power forward has missed the team’s last eight games with knee tendinitis.
In his time off the court, Gasol says he’s gotten healthy enough to help his team.
"It's been two weeks, it's been a while. I miss playing and I miss being out there and competing with my team. My knees are not in pain as they were. So if there's no need to miss another game, I won't miss another game."
L.A. has struggled with Gasol on the bench, going 3-5 without the big man. Antawn Jamison and Jordan Hill have split time in the starting lineup in his absence.
At 11-14, the Lakers have been perhaps the biggest disappointment of the young NBA season. After they traded for Nash and Dwight Howard in the summer, Los Angeles overtook the Oklahoma City Thunder as the favorites in the West. With Nash on the bench for most of the year, and Gasol either sitting or playing hurt, L.A. hasn’t lived up to expectations.
Head coach Mike Brown was fired after just five games, and D'Antoni has little to reverse the fortunes. All of the Lakers' problems has the club searching for answers.
Kobe Bryant has done his best to make up for the loss of the team’s top stars. He’s leading the league in scoring, but hasn’t been able to keep the Lakers above .500.
Assuming Gasol and Nash are back on Saturday, it will be just the third time that the Lakers will have their full complement of stars on the court at the same time.