Every time he ran up the floor or missed an open jumper, the sequences just provided a visual reminder that Pau Gasol’s conditioning still lags.
Not that it should be surprising. Gasol’s appearance in the Lakers’ 103-100 loss Friday to the Washington Wizards marked his first game since missing the previous 20 because of a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. But his four-point effort on 2 of 10 shooting and eight rebounds in 20 minutes gives a clear benchmark on how Gasol must progress.
“Getting the legs back will be a big thing with just pushing through the initial fatigue and getting into a better rhythm,” Gasol said, “so I can finish plays and be more effective.”
Gasol’s effectiveness came in spurts.
His accuracy looked as bad as it does on paper, missing countless open mid-range jumpers. Gasol’s timing also looked off when he forced a few entry passes inside and reacted slowly on defensive rotations.
But Gasol remained a key part when he ran pick-and-rolls with Kobe Bryant, sequences that spaced the floor and led to open looks for Dwight Howard.
“I was just trying to move the ball and make the right play as always,” Gasol said. “When I had the shots, I took them. Unfortunatley, I couldn’t make most of them. I tried to be a factor and get in some kind of rhythm and see how it felt.”
It wasn’t enough though for Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to follow through on his pledge that Gasol will finish games. He sat out the final 8:50 of the fourth quarter.
“With Pau, it’s a matter of rhythm and Mike feeling out the rotations so guys get back into rhythm in when they’re coming in and when they’re coming out,” Bryant said. “That’s really the biggest adjustment. It’s not playing with him on the floor. It’s all the guys figuring out the rotation.”
Meanwhile, Gasol will figure out his conditioning.
“He’s got to get his legs back, obviously,” Bryant said. “He had bambee legs out there a little bit, which is natural. But we’ll get him back into form and we’ll be good to go.”
First things first, though.
After nursing pain in his right foot for six weeks, Gasol still has to monitor it.
“It’s a little sore,” he said. “But hopefully it will be okay tomorrow and will be better every game. Hopefully my conditioning will also get better so I can increase my productivity and my minutes.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org