The Lakers will soon find out whether they’ll have a healthier roster or continue fielding a team full of randomly assorted reserves.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol will visit a neurologist Sunday morning for the fifth time this week since suffering a concussion, a necessity considering he didn’t receive medical clearance during his visit today with Dr. Vern Williams. Meanwhile, Lakers center Dwight Howard will also be reevaluated Sunday after nursing a separated labrum in his right shoulder.
Both tests will determine whether they will play Sunday when the Lakers (15-21) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (9-29) at Staples Center. Both have missed the past three games.
“There’s nothing definitive about anybody,” Lakers center Mike D’Antoni said.
Whenever Howard and Gasol return, plenty of debate has brewed on how they will be featured. D’Antoni echoed concerns Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss expressed in a recent radio interview that Gasol should be featured more in the post. But Lakers guard Steve Nash sounded skeptical on how that would work.
“It’s tough to get him inside when Dwight is on the floor,” Nash said. “To Pau’s credit, he can stretch the floor more than Dwight so he’s more of a playmaker so he finds himself on the perimeter. For me, I think Pau is a tremendous basketball player. I need to see him get his health and his confidence back. Even when he has been inside this year, he hasn’t looked very confident. For me, I want to see him feel better physically, be confident and enjoy the game. I don’t know if he’s been himself this year. If he can get back to himself, it doesn’t matter where he plays.”
Gasol has averaged a career-low 12.2 points on 41.6 percent shooting and 8.4 rebounds for a number of reasons.
There’s injuries. He nursed knee tendinitis since the beginning of training camp, an injury that eventually sidelined him for eight games. He also has played through plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
There’s comfort level. Gasol has admitted D’Antoni’s system that calls for him to be a facilitator and jump shooter has taken him away from his post presence, a skill that won him two NBA championships in 2009 and 2010 under Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.
There’s chemistry. Howard has averaged 17.3 points and 12.4 rebounds, but his inconsistent explosiveness and energy level at least partly reflects his nine-month old back surgery.
So how does the Lakers ensure they maximize the skillsets to Gasol and Howard when they’re on the floor?
“I don’t know what’s the best way to make them play together,” Nash said. “I know one thing is they both have to play hard and believe and not worry about how we can make this work. We have to fight and scrap, use their length and athleticism. We all have to be unselfish and sacrifice. Make plays for each other regardless of where we are on the floor.”