After battling knee tendinitis over the two weeks, Pau Gasol sounded full of optimism surrounding his return tonight when the Lakers host the Charlotte Bobcats.
“No limitations,” Gasol said with a smile. “Sky’s the limit. 48 minutes, overtime, 50…”
Gasol reported “no setbacks” in the knee tendinitis that emerged during training camp. Gasol also went against returning Saturday at Golden State despite having an additional three days of practice and rest for one simple reason.
“It’ll be good for me to get up and down, and so since we don’t have long practices, this is a better way to get in game shape,” Gasol said. “So there’s no point on waiting any more days.”
The Lakers eagerly awaited his return. After all, the Lakers are 3-5 without him in the lineup. Still, Gasol conceded there’s plenty of things he doesn’t know surrounding his debut.
The most immediate concern involves his health. Gasol had indicated that his knee tendinitis limited his explosiveness, athleticism and post positioning. But he hesitated envisioning how those elements will become easier now that he’s healthy.
“We’ll see as I try to get back into game shape and get my conditioning back up and my feel for the game since I haven’t been doing much basketball these last few weeks,” Gasol said. “Just do that for the first game or two and hopefully my explosiveness or quickness will be better.”
The other element involves his role.
Gasol has averaged a career-low 12.6 points on 47 percent shooting and has expressed hope Mike D’Antoni’s system would feature him more in the post. Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant expressed similar sentiments during Gasol’s absence. Despite calling him “one of the best big men in the league,” D’Antoni threw cold water on that idea.
“We’ll see. It’s hard to feature everybody,” D’Antoni said. “We want him in there because he’s good. We want him everywhere. We want him featured as everybody should be featured on every play. The ball is going to find one guy hopefully in a great position to score. I’m just not real big on pinpointing you go here. I don’t like that. Then you do this. That ball moves and it finds the weak spot in the defense. Then the guys is wide open. Then he’s going to make a shot.”
It’s just a matter of us sharing the ball and moving the ball and everybody moving and feeling good about things. You’ll be surprised how many times he’ll get in the post because he’s supposed to. You’ll be surprised how many times Dwight should get in the post. Kobe gets his opportunities. Everybody gets their opportunities. But everybody has to understand when Steve comes back, you have six guys out there where not everybody will be able to score 30 points every night. Some guys will. But they all should have career years.”
Gasol insisted he’s “not worried” about his role at least for his first game. But he’s been worried enough to talk to D’Antoni about his role.
“We have such talent individually, right now with Kobe and Dwight [Howard] being the main guys, being the focus of the offense,” Gasol said. “He wants the rest of the guys to spread, to faciliate, to give us balance, to move the ball, because if everybody did their individual thing, we wouldn’t be in good shape. So we’ll see. I’ll try to be aggressive, I’ll try to get to positions where I’m comfortable and can be effective. But at the same time we want to give space to our guards to penetrate the lane and find open guys.”
Still Gasol conceded he hopes his post role expands.
“I’d like to but we’ll see how that happens,” he said. “If that happens, I think that’s a good weapon to have and use.Like I said, I’ll get myself there one way or another.”
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