The Los Angeles Lakers met in El Segundo on Thursday, and Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant took part in a short and intense practice.
Although most expected Bryant to return to the starting lineup by Friday, Gasol’s return was not set in stone. But after Thursday’s practice, the consensus was that both Bryant and Gasol are back after taking a break to recover from injuries.
Gasol "looked good," Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. "If he doesn’t wake up in pain or whatever, which I don’t think so, he’ll play tomorrow."
Gasol also addressed the media after working with Dwight Howard and assistant coach Chuck Person.
"I am expecting to play," Gasol said confidently.
However, he admitted his conditioning was "not good" and that he would be playing limited minutes. He said the limited minutes were not only due to the conditioning but also the foot recovery process.
Gasol participated in a 5-on-5 full court scrimmage, and Thursday was the first time he had played a full court game in more than six weeks.
In regards to limitations, Gasol said he still needs to work on playing with confidence and pain.
"I can dunk," the 7-foot Gasol laughed when asked if his jumping ability was hindered at the moment.
Along with Gasol, the Lakers had Bryant back in practice for the first time in more than a week. Bryant was not available after practice, but D’Antoni confirmed that Bryant would play Friday against the Washington Wizards.
Kobe "practiced and I think he stiffened up a little, but he’ll be ready," D’Antoni said.
With Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Howard, Bryant and Gasol all playing together, the Lakers look whole again.
Howard even revealed that the starters went on a 28-0 run in Thursday’s practice.
No one was immediately available to verify Howard’s numbers, but he appeared genuinely excited about having the full team of players everyone imagined at the start of the season.
Later, Howard performed a funny crying Terrell Owens impersonation when Triple Threat asked him if he was having fun.
The Los Angeles Lakers appear to be having fun, playing good basketball, and getting healthy at the right time of the season.
Better late than never.