Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash will determine whether or not L.A. is still playing once the regular season ends. Pau Gasol, however, may not be a part of the Lakers postseason push.
Gasol has not played since Feb. 5 against the Brooklyn Nets, when he suffered a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. The injury has kept him out of the lineup for the past 10 games, and he doesn’t seem to be close to making a return.
The original diagnosis stated that Gasol would miss six to eight weeks. That timeframe would allow him to come back for the team’s last 12 contests. Mike D’Antoni, though, isn’t counting on his big man to make a large contribution down the stretch.
“By the time he gets back, we’ll be in or out,” the head coach told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News, earlier this week. “His impact will be in the playoffs if we get there.”
On Tuesday, the seven-footer stated that he is no longer using crutches. Gasol wrote on Twitter that his health is improving, but he doesn’t know when he’ll be back on the court.
“Back in the training room this morning,” Gasol posted on Twitter. “Today it's 3 weeks since I injured my foot. Everyday is feeling better. Still no set date for return.”
Even if Gasol does return in the next few weeks, it’s uncertain how much of an impact he would have. He likely wouldn’t get major minutes in his first few games back, and he was coming off the bench before the injury.
In 36 games, Gasol has put up the worst numbers since he’s been a pro. His 13.4 points per game is five less than his career average, and his 45.3 field goal percentage is also a personal low. D’Antoni took the veteran out of the starting lineup against the Miami Heat on Jan. 17, and played him bench until he got hurt.
Before his foot injury, Gasol had two other significant stretches where he missed time. In December, he sat out eight games with tendinitis. In January, a concussion kept him out for five more contests.
The Lakers have been without another big man even longer than Gasol. Jordan Hill hasn’t played since Jan. 5 against the Denver Nuggets. The 25-year-old suffered a hip injury that should keep him inactive for the rest of the regular season.
While it’s a longshot that Hill will return this season, it’s still possible for him to take the court in the playoffs. Kevin Ding of the Orange County register reports that Hill could be ready in June.
The NBA Finals are scheduled to begin on June 6.