With the hopes of keeping his 33-year-old knees healthy for the grinding 82-game NBA season, Pau Gasol planned to ease his way into training camp.
Five days into camp, that plan apparently changed. After spending this summer resting after having a procedure to fix his knee tendinosis, Gasol has exceeded his own expectations on how he’d perform on the court.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to practice fully at this point,” Gasol said. “It’s been good.”
Gasol originally planned to sit out of Saturday’s practice and possibly beyond since he hadn’t performed many basketball-related drills this offseason. He sat out of the scrimmage portion when the Lakers had two training sessions both on Sunday and Tuesday to avoid extra pounding on his knees, but he still participated in individual drills and weight-training exercises.
“I thought coming off an injury, he’d be sitting out half of a practice or skip a practice,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s done everything all the time and has been sharp.”
Few would describe Gasol that way last season. He missed a combined 33 games with injuries including plantar fascia in his right foot, a concussion and knee tendinosis. Gasol also averaged a career-low 13.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting partly because he played a facilitating role stemmed from Dwight Howard having a larger post presence and D’Antoni’s preference for a smaller lineup.
This year, the Lakers plan to feature Gasol heavily inside as the team’s starting center. He also reiterated confidence he will feel 100 percent healthy for the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers at Staples Center.
“Day by day I’m seeing how the knees react to the amount of work,” I’m trying to pick it up every day, push myself a little harder, do a little more and then see how it reacts.”
So far, it’s reacted well partly to the 33-year-old Gasol skipping out on playing for his native Spain the FIBA European Championships. Gasol also sat out of the 2010 FIBA World Championships because of fatigue concerns stemmed from three consecutive NBA Finals appearances.
“I feel refreshed mentally and physically,” Gasol said. “Both aspects are really important. I’m fresher and having fun with the guys out there. I’m encouraging them to keep moving, to play together, to keep the spacing and play team basketball.”
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