Pau Gasol expected to return Thursday

1/16/13 in NBA   |   BrianMaddock   |   1429 respect

The Los Angeles Lakers can tick-off another name from the injury report this week after forward Pau Gasol said he felt optimistic about playing against the Miami Heat on Thursday.
Pau Gasol went through shooting drills and three-on-three game at Wednesday’s practice. The 32-year-old Pau Gasol missed the past five games due to concussion symptoms, after initially sustaining the injury due to an elbow to the head in the 6th January Loss to Denver Nuggets. But Pau Gasol said he felt better at Wednesday’s practice and expected to be medically cleared for the Miami Heat game by Thursday Morning.
"I feel better and tomorrow I'll be a go. I guess I have to ease my way back into it because this is the first day I've actually got some good work done on the court,” said Pau Gasol. “After a week and a half of inactivity your body needs a certain amount of time to get back out there and perform at your best.”
However, with Pau Gasol returning, the Los Angeles Lakers will again be faced with the question whether to start him amid an inconsistent season or have him come off the bench. Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni indicated on Tuesday that Pau Gasol could start on his return, but that perspective seemed to have changed by Wednesday. Pau Gasol said he had a talk with Mike D’Antoni on today in which they discussed the possibility of All-Star coming off the bench as he eases into the starting lineup.
"We're talking about it. We're talking about it with the head coach and the head trainer,” Pau Gasol stated on the possibility of coming off the bench. “I would always like to start and play 40 minutes but that's probably not the best thing right now."
During the past three games, Earl Clark has started at the spot. Earl Clark has averaged over 21 minutes per game in the past five games during Pau Gasol’s absence. But he sat out of practice Wednesday with flu-like symptoms. Still, Mike D’Antoni expected Earl Clark to be available to play the Miami Heat on Thursday.
The Los Angeles Lakers ended a six-game slide last Sunday with the return of All-Star center Dwight Howard, who is returning from a shoulder injury. Since then, the Los Angeles Lakers have won two games. Pau Gasol believed that point guard Steve Nash’s return after a leg fracture that kept him out 24 games has also assisted in moving the ball.
"We share the ball. Steve has definitely done a good job setting the tone. I think Kobe is finding Dwight a lot more and being unselfish,” said Pau Gasol. “The main players have to set the tone for the rest of the guys and it gets contagious."
Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake also participated in shooting drills and three-on-three game Wednesday for the first time since undergoing an abdominal surgery in early December. Steve Blake was expected to be miss six-to-eight weeks at the time of the surgery, but he will meet with doctors for a second opinion on Thursday. Steve Blake has suffered no setbacks during recovery but there is still no schedule for his return.
“I'm still day to day but I feel a little more confident in myself,” said Steve Blake. “I just got to play through the pain I'm having but I'm back, so that feels good.”
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