After nursing a week-long concussion and struggling through the various tests needed to seek medical clearance, Lakers forward Pau Gasol said he’s “optimistic” he will play when the Lakers host the Miami Heat Thursday at Staples Center.
It’s not definitive, though.
Gasol plans to visit with neurologist Dr. Vern Williams Thursday morning on what will mark his seventh visit since nursing the concussion. Still, Gasol made incremental progress Wednesday by participating in a series of three-on-three drills with teammates Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks and Robert Sacre. Gasol also revealed he’s had discussions with Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni and trainer Gary Vitti about coming off the bench to ease his way back into the lineup after missing the past five games.
“I have a lot of say in it,” said Gasol, who’s averaged a career-low 12.2 points on 41.6 percent shooting and 8.4 rebounds. “I would always like to start and play 40 minutes. But that’s not the best thing right now.”
That means it’s possible Lakers forward Earl Clark would start regardless of the outcome. Clark has emerged in the rotation since Gasol’s five-game absence. Though Clark missed Wednesday’s practice because of a flu-like symptoms, he’s expected to play against Miami.
As for Gasol, he wants to take extra precaution after admittedly struggling with the recovery in what he described as a “learning experience.”
The NBA concussion policy, according to a league official, requires players to pass drills symptom free, including stationary bike, light jogging, running, jumping, agility and team drills with limited contact. Gasol said he struggled passing those the first few days, including a computer card game that tested his alertness.
“It was frustrating,” Gasol said. “I couldn’t focus.”
He then attended the Lakers’ wins this week Sunday against Cleveland and Tuesday against Milwaukee. Bad idea.
“It was hard for me to be out there sitting on the bench with all the stimuli that was out there, the noise and the people and the lights,” Gasol said. “I struggled that day and that set me back a little bit. Yesterday was fine. I was a lot better. I was able to work out.”
Bryant, who suffered a concussion in the 2012 NBA All-Star game, sounded largely sympathetic toward Gasol’s injury. But he sounded slightly irritated that Gasol attended practices and games.
“He encouraged me every day to go home,” Gasol said. “He was like what are you doing? Go home. I wanted to be around my teammates.”
Gasol, who attended medical school at the University of Barcelona, received similar advice from people in the medical field. But he found it hard disrupting his routine.
“It’s also hard to behave,” said Gasol “When you have a concussion and you’re home. No TV, no computer, no reading. What are you supposed to do? It’s hard to stay still at home, especially if you’re an active person. You learn it’s no joke and that you have to be careful.”
Did Gasol’s failure to do that consistently set him back?
“Who knows,” he said. “I think I tried to behave as much as possible to get my mind as much rest as needed. But I watched all the games they played. I couldn’t miss watching the game.”
Gasol will soon find out if he’ll miss another one.
“With the day I had, I’ll see how my body and brain reacts in the next couple of hours,” Gasol said. “It should be okay. I have to get everything back to conditioning and my entire body waking up again.”
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