The affection Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant have for each other runs deep.
They combined to win two NBA championships together. Gasol remains grateful Bryant’s publicly advocated for him to stay on the Lakers and have a large post presence despite spending the past three seasons weathering endless trade rumors and reduced roles. Bryant remains grateful Gasol became the missing piece that helped him win two more NBA championships, both without Shaquille O’Neal no less. Gasol appreciates Bryant takes the burden in leading the team and sparks his aggressiveness. Bryant appreciates Gasol’s versatile skillset and accommodating personality complements Bryant’s scoring mantle and commanding demeanor.
So it’s only natural that Gasol sounded sensitive to the news that Bryant will be reevaluated in another three weeks after experiencing more pain, soreness and swelling in his fractured left knee.
“I know it’s tough for him. I know it’s a very tough year for him,” Gasol said following the Lakers’ 101-92 victory Friday over the Boston Celtics at Staples Center. “I just hope he gets healthy. If it takes a little longer, it takes a little longer. If that means he might not play this season, I’m sure he’ll stay positive and look ahead. The main thing is he has to be healthy.”
Bryant will miss 10 more games before being reevaluated on March 14. But considering Bryant’s recovery has solely entailed stationary bike work, the Lakers expected Bryant will need a couple of weeks of practice before returning to the court. That means a possible best case scenario could entail Bryant returning in late March or early April. If not, who knows if Bryant plays at all considering the Lakers’ season finale against April 16 in San Antonio.
“I don’t know,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That’s out of my hands. We’ll see. I have no answer to that one.”
Bryant has appeared in only six games this season, averaging 13.8 points on 42.5 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 5.7 turnovers in 29.5 minutes per game. Bryant sat out for the first 19 contests while rehabbing his left Achilles tendon. But ever since fracturing his left knee in the Lakers’ win against Memphis on Dec. 12, Bryant has stayed off the court for the past 30 games.
Bryant has watched games on the bench showing pained reactions toward the Lakers’ never-ending losses. He remains engaging in his near weekly interview sessions with reporters. But he has kept a relatively low profile than his usually commanding presence entails. Yet, Gasol said Bryant has kept a positive outlook on his season-long ailments.
“It’s something new for him and I think he’s handled it well,” Gasol said. “He tries to keep himself in shape and works as much as he can so if he gets the opportunity to get back, he’ll be able to play again.”
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