As he walked around giving kids high five and stressing the importance of fire safety, Pau Gasol provided visual evidence that he’s making steps forward in his recovery from knee tendonosis.
A day after walking without crutches three weeks following a procedure in both knees, Gasol appeared to move fluidly. Yet, he plans to limit his movement at least for the next three weeks. Once he gains the necessary range of motion, Gasol expects to start swimming afterwards.
“It’s getting better,” Gasol said after visiting 61st Street Elementary School with the nonprofit MySafe L.A. “One day at a time. It’s a long recovery. I’m still in the early stages of it.”
The Lakers expect Gasol to return to basketball-related activities within nine weeks. Still, Gasol will have plenty of activity in the next few days to keep him moving.
Gasol will host a pep rally Monday at the Boys & Girls Club in downtown Los Angeles to mark the beginning of his self-named foundation. As part of his initiative to promote a healthy lifestyle, Gasol and his brother, Marc, of the Memphis Grizzlies will coach two different teams in what’s called “The Healthy Competition 2013″ running from June 10 through Aug. 2. Using gifted Nike Fuelbands (retailed at $149) to track the teams’ progress, either Pau or Marc will have to shave their beard if their respective team loses.
“Hopefully I can motivate my guys on Monday to make sure they’re active and exercise all summer long so we can beat the Boys and Girls Club in Memphis,” Gasol said. “So I don’t have to shave my beard off.”
In a few days after that, Gasol will fly to his native Spain.
From there, Gasol will go through various rehab exercises involving icing and electronic stimulation on his knees. It sure marks progress from the past three weeks where he mostly spent his time watching movies and reading books, including Mike Krzyzewski’s “Beyond Basketball.”
“He talks a lot about values and concepts and team work and team success,” Gasol said. “He’s a great coach and great leader and has great devotion for it. He’s a guy I’d like to learn from. There’s a lot of values he talks about. I enjoyed it and he relates those concepts to situations and players. I think it’s pretty positive.”
It’s proven difficult keeping that mindset, though.
Gasol, who’s under contract next season for $19.3 million, could be traded or waived via the amnesty provision. He missed a total of 33 games due to various ailments, including knee tendonitis that sidelined him for eight games in early December. But Gasol said the injury lingered throughout the season. Such ailments and Gasol’s reduced offensive role under Mike D’Antoni’s system contributed to him averaging a career-low 13.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting and 8.6 rebounds through 49 games.
Gasol traveled to Memphis last week only to see his brother, Marc, fall in a four-game sweep in the Western Conference to the San Antonio Spurs. About a month ago, the Lakers suffered the same fate to San Antonio in the first round. And Gasol’s continuously reminded of that reality whenever he turns the television on.
“I can’t get away from it unfortunately,” Gasol said regarding the playoffs. “When I’m away in Spain, it’s easier because I won’t get up at 3 a.m. to watch a game. Here, I can’t help it. I love to watch it as much it might hurt. But that’s part of everybody’s career.”
Fortunately for Gasol, however, his knees no longer hurt.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org