The Lakers resemble a group of classic cars that are constantly in the garage, hoping oil changes, rotated tires and a whole lot care will squeeze out a few more miles before the vehicle completely combusts.
Kobe Bryant has remained in the shop for the past six months and counting with a left Achilles tendon. Steve Nash’s back and nerves surrounding his surgically repaired left leg flared up enough to keep him out of the second half of the Lakers’ 113-90 loss Sunday to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He also plans to see foot specialist Dr. Robert Watkins on Monday to know the severity of his injuries, which include his back, nerves in his left leg and pain in his left hamstring.
But on a night where good news was scarce, one trace of a positive development emerged in the Lakers’ last standing member of their alleged Big Three.
Lakers center Pau Gasol continued his shooting woes with an 11-point performance on 5 of 12 shooting against Minnesota, marking the fifth consecutive game he has shot below 50 percent. But Gasol reported improvement in the respiratory issues he’s had for the past two weeks that negatively affected his breathing and stamina, contributed to a 12.5 points per game average on 36.8 percent shooting and 10.7 rebounds in 27.8 minutes.
“I’m getting there. I’m not 100 percent,” Gasol said. “Unfortunately, I had to go through this two weeks of respiratory infection, which has been killing me. Right now I feel better. I feel like I’m finally over it. I was able to push myself better and I felt better tonight. I look forward to continuing to build on that and get closer to that 100 percent.”
That limitation clearly showed when New Orleans forward Anthony Davis manhandled Gasol last Friday in the Lakers’ loss to the Pelicans, conceding 32 points on 12 of 18 shooting, 12 rebounds and six blocks. Or when Gasol struggled finding lift in his legs. Or when he’s had trouble matching the speed Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni wants.
It doesn’t help that Gasol’s only a summer removed from having a procedure on his wobbly knees. Although he reported feeling refreshed after skipping the FIBA European Championships for his native Spain, Gasol also admittedly has fallen behind his conditioning.
“I think he’ll round into shape,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll have to be a little patient. I think he’s getting frustrated too. But it’s also a product of the team. That’s one reason we need more energy on the floor. He’s running through some stuff. He’s trying everything he can to get back to having great games and he will.”
That’s why Gasol played in the final 6:33 of the game.
D’Antoni said he didn’t insert Gasol, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill so late of an inevitable double-digit blowout loss as punishment. But with limited practice time stemmed from two back-to-backs and a recent week-long trip, players such as Gasol may receive added minutes later in the game to build their rhythm.
Still, Gasol averaged a team-leading 13.71 points on 45.3 percent in fewer 24.9 minutes in the preseason, showing all kinds of glimpses of greatness with his post work, pick-and-rolls and facilitating.
“But the minutes were the low 20′s. So we didn’t really go to the 30′s,” Gasol said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever go into the 30′s, but the minutes that I play, I want to feel well. I want to feel strong. I want to explode. I’m not getting tired after five minutes. That’s the way it’s been going for the last few weeks.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org