The Los Angeles Lakers have been without Pau Gasol for six weeks. They’ve been without Kobe Bryant for a couple of games. Tonight, they’ll get both of them back at the same time.
The Lakers will finally look (almost) fully-loaded this evening when they take on the Washington Wizards at Staples Center. They’re still missing Jordan Hill – who could be back for the playoffs – and it’ll take some time for Gasol to regain game shape, but it’s a start.
D’Antoni confirmed today that the ring-winning duo will start tonight, per RotoWorld.com:
Mike D’Antoni confirmed after shootaround that both Kobe Bryant (ankle) and Pau Gasol (foot) are expected to start on Friday against the Wizards.
Gasol is expected to play limited minutes, but D’Antoni won’t wait for his conditioning to improve before thrusting him back into the starting lineup. Although D’Antoni said Gasol will “probably” start, we expect him to do so, and Earl Clark will head back to the bench, though he’s still expected to play 20-25 minutes. The Lakers will finally have the starting five back in action that they envisioned to begin the year with Steve Nash, Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard rounding out the group. Jodie Meeks will also return to his traditional bench role with Kobe back.
For the Lakers to do any real damage in the playoffs, they’ll need to get good contributions from Gasol, both with Dwight Howard on-and-off the floor. They need to be able to form a strong two-man game, and then Pau will have to hold the fort – and most importantly, protect the rim – while Howard sits for rest or due to foul trouble.
With about a month to go until the playoffs, starting tonight, Gasol and the rest of the Lakers still have time to grow and fine tune their game plan just in time for the postseason.