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Mike D’Antoni expects Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant to return Friday vs. Washington

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After receiving good news yesterday thanks to an ultrasound on his right foot, Pau Gasol continued to work his way back to full health by playing 4-on-4 on Wednesday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.

Mike D’Antoni said that not only did he expect Pau to return on Friday versus the Washington Wizards, but Kobe Bryant would likely play too, according to ESPN:

Pau Gasol ran up and down the court Wednesday in a game of 4-on-4 for the first time since suffering a plantar fascia tear in his right foot in early February, and if coach Mike D’Antoni has his way, Gasol’s return to game action could be Friday.

“Hopefully Kobe [Bryant] and Pau will be back Friday, hopefully, and then we can start going forward with everybody that we need to have,” D’Antoni said, later agreeing with a reporter who asked if he “expected” the pair back.

Bryant tweeted today that the ankle “feels fine” and he’ll test it at full speed tomorrow.

Gasol is expected to return to his old starting role at some point, though he’ll likely come off the bench at first to ease back into game shape, according to D’Antoni:

“His minutes might fluctuate early, because he doesn’t have the stamina to stay out there,” D’Antoni said. “We don’t have the luxury for him to be on the floor if he’s not 100 [percent].”

There will be a spot waiting for Gasol with the first unit when he is ready, however.

“He’ll probably start at some point,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know if it’s the first game or it’s the third game — he’s going to start, and he’s going to finish games. We can’t do anything in the playoffs without Pau being comfortable and 100 percent.”

The move to eventually start Gasol again will be a good one by D’Antoni: Not only will it keep the Spaniard happy and minimise any drama, but Earl Clark‘s production has tailed off significantly in recent times, paving the way for a return to the starting five for Pau. Maybe Clark will be able to find a return to form by being a “spark guy” off the bench.

The ESPN report also stated that Steve Blake was sent home with flu-like symptoms today. Blake has been dealing with the illness for the last few days, so he’s expected to be ready to go on Friday as well.

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