Injured player Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands during the national anthem before the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on March 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Gasol is hoping to return as early as Sunday, March 17 against the Sacramento Kings.
Pau Gasol will not play on Friday, but the Spaniard would not rule out a return on Sunday or early next week.
"I'm not going to hold myself back if I think I'm ready to play," Gasol told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "There's not many games left in the season and every game will be valuable to us."
Gasol went down on Feb. 5 in Brooklyn. It was the first time the Lakers had ever played in the New York borough, and it was also the first time Gasol experienced this particular injury. He suffered a partial tear of his plantar fascia and was initially "worried" due to the uncertainty.
In the days that followed, a timeline of six to eight weeks was revealed.
However, if Gasol is able to return to the team any time before Monday’s game against Phoenix, he will have beaten the more aggressive end of that recovery timeline.
Gasol’s injury was closely monitored by Triple Threat throughout the recovery process, so this positive injury news should not come as an absolute shock. Admittedly, any positive injury news for the Lakers must be met with caution.
With Kobe Bryant suffering an ankle injury and Earl Clark fading due to a combination of fatigue and injuries, Gasol’s return will be a welcomed boost for coach Mike D’Antoni and his team.
D’Antoni has consistently made mention of Gasol’s return as a key component for the Lakers’ playoffs hopes. With Clark’s recent struggles, Gasol would likely supplant the former Louisville Cardinal in the starting lineup.
The Lakers are currently in the eighth and final playoffs spot, and they appear to be on pace for a seventh- or eighth-place finish. Barring a miracle sixth place finish, LA would most likely matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs without a home court advantage.
If Gasol is able to return on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers will have 15 games to integrate the Spaniard into the team before the post-season.
Without the added seven feet, the Lakers do not offer much hope of a deep run in the playoffs, so Gasol’s return should signal a positive step for the Lakers’ ultimate goal.