So much for the theory that Pau Gasol would be rusty after missing the first 11 games of the season with a hamstring injury.
The Spaniard came back Thursday night and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in 35 minutes of work.
Before the game, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he thought Gasol would play about 25 minutes, but it could be more or less depending on how he handled the workload. While Gasol looked a bit winded at times, he played very well.
Other news of the night:
–Kobe Bryant moving to second on the all-time Lakers scoring list, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the second half.
–Andrew Bynum playing only 24 minutes with Gasol’s return. He finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Pau Gasol scored 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting and also grabbed five rebounds in his first 17 minutes of the season tonight against Chicago. He hardly looked as if he had been sidelined for five-plus weeks because of a strained right hamstring. Kobe Bryant scored 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting. John Salmons led Chicago with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
Luke Walton underwent a procedure called a facet rhizotomy on Wednesday. The procedure seeks to turn off the pain signals sent from the injured part of the back (the facet) to the brain. The pain relief can typically lasts months or years. Walton suffered a pinched nerve in his back and was initially said to be out at least six weeks.
Derek Fisher offered a series of pretty honest opinions about the Lakers after Monday’s practice. Forgive me for not posting it sooner. Sometimes I get sidetracked. Anyway, here’s all of what Fisher had to say earlier this week:
“We’re not really that concerned about guys making shots, ultimately. But we’re concerned about the lack of execution that comes if a pass is kicked out of a double team or just coming down and not really seeming like we’re that into our the offensive set or any kind of a flow. The coaches and players are confident we will make shots. We’re just kind of locked into throwing the ball down to Kobe (Bryant) or throwing the ball to Andrew (Bynum). Even though those guys have success at times, there’s been an in-and-out flow for everybody else. Ron (Artest) has had some moments, then hasn’t. I’ve had some moments, haven’t. Sasha has hit some shots, then sometimes he hasn’t. That’s kind of gone all the way around the whole team.
Pau Gasol said today he would play Thursday against the Chicago Bulls. Probably. Maybe. But not definitely.
“I don’t know about definitely,” said Gasol, who missed the Lakers’ first 11 games because of a strained hamstring. He expects to make his season debut Thursday. Again, unless something kooky happens between today and Thursday. He went through practice without suffering a setback.
“I felt great today,” Gasol said. “I don’t want to jinx it, but everything felt great today. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to play (Thursday). I want to play. I’ve been wanting to play since Day 1. It wasn’t ready. The muscle wasn’t healed.”
Coach Phil Jackson said Gasol would start and Lamar Odom would return to the bench.
Kobe Bryant killed the losing streak. He scored 40 points for the 100th time in his career, making 17 of 29 shots while playing 39 minutes, 13 seconds with a nagging groin injury. He made a no-look, back-to-the-basket layup over Kwame Brown that seemed to be a perfect summary on his night. He wouldn’t be denied in helping the Lakers avoid their first three-game losing streak since January 2008. Andrew Bynum scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his eighth double-double. He had only 13 shots, making seven, however. Shannon Brown had 12 points and Jordan Farmar had 10 in reserve roles. Will Bynum, no relation to Andrew, scored 24 points to lead Detroit, and Ben Gordon had 18. Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince sat out because of injuries.
Kobe Bryant showed no signs of the groin strain that slowed him to a crawl in Sunday’s loss to the Houston Rockets. He scored a team-leading 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting in the first half. Andrew Bynum added seven points and seven rebounds against the undersized Pistons. Jordan Farmar added seven points in a reserve role. Ben Gordon led the Pistons with 11 points, but was no match for Bryant. Also, at halftime, injured Lakers forward Luke Walton said he had no idea how he suffered a pinched nerve in his back. He said it had been bothering him for about a week or so. He is expected to sit out six weeks.
UPDATED: Walton had this to say about his injury, “I want to get back as soon as possible. Last time (during a similar injury during training camp), they wanted me out longer, but as soon as the back started feeling good again, I was begging them to start playing again. They did and, obviously, it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t ready yet.”
Here are a few observations from Phil Jackson before tonight’s game against Detroit.
On Kobe Bryant’s injury: “I thought he was possibly going to be out for some of this week. He’s been struggling with this for a while, but he wanted to practice (Monday), he wanted to get into the rhythm of things and see how it felt. We have to watch his time off the court as jealously as we do on the court. We don’t want him to sit and stiffen up during the course of the game. He wouldn’t do that (take a game off to mend). I think an 82-game season has much meaning for him and winning an individual scoring championship. That’s something (he) really relishes. He knows if he can do it.”
On more playing time for Adam Morrison with Luke Walton out with a back injury: “We don’t feel like we’re depleted at all. We feel like we’re kind of overloaded at that position. Ron (Artest) is a (small forward). Kobe plays a lot at (small forward). This is a team (Detroit) that plays three guards with (Rodney) Stuckey, (Will) Bynum and (Ben) Gordon. We don’t feel like we’ll be at a deficit at al in this game. We’re hoping to give Adam some minutes. Luke hasn’t had a lot to start the season, but we want Adam to have a chance to get out there and prove himself.”
On the lack of motion in the triangle offense: “We’ve been pretty stagnant. We’ve had Kobe posting up on one side and Andrew on the other with three on the outside and two inside instead of the overload in the triangle like we usually play.”
On Pau Gasol’s status: “We’re just going one day at a time. He came back after a practice yesterday and performed in the shootaround (this morning). He said he’s fine. We’re thinking tomorrow he’ll have a practice. He’ll work out tonight (during the game). We’ll go one day at a time, but he’s hoping he can play Thursday. I asked him if he could play tonight, actually. He said, ‘Well, I’m not ready yet. I don’t feel ready yet.’ So, we’re still waiting for him to feel totally comfortable with where he is.”
Luke Walton has a pinched nerve in his back that will sideline him for at least six weeks, the Lakers announced tonight. Walton did not play in Sunday’s loss to the Houston Rockets and did not practice this afternoon. He was examined by Dr. Robert Watkins. Walton had a sore back that kept him from playing several exhibition games last month. It’s not immediately clear whether this injury is related to the previous one.
Expect Adam Morrison to get a few extra minutes while Walton is sidelined. Morrison doesn’t have the knowledge of the Lakers’ triangle offense that Walton has, but Coach Phil Jackson doesn’t have many options at present. Jackson could play Josh Powell more at small forward. But with Pau Gasol out for at least one more game because of a hamstring injury, Jackson needs Powell to serve as Lamar Odom’s backup at power forward.
Andrew Bynum scored 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting in Sunday’s loss to the Houston Rockets. He had 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting in Friday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. He also had 26 points on 13-for-18 shooting in Thursday’s victory over the Phoenix Suns. Overall, he’s averaging 20.8 points on 59.6 percent shooting. So, the question is, why isn’t he getting more shots? Just throwing it out there for discussion.