At Friday morning Lakers shootaround, Mike D’Antoni confirmed that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol would both be starting on Friday night against the Washington Wizards.
Gasol practiced full court 4-on-4 on Wednesday and 5-on-5 full court on Thursday, and the Spaniard’s injured foot reacted well enough that D’Antoni felt comfortable telling the small contingent of reporters that Gasol would “probably” start on Friday night.
“Starting [Gasol] will probably be better because he will be warmed up and ready to go a few minutes, then take him out,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll play it by ear after that.”
D’Antoni admitted that Gasol’s return would change the entire team's minutes, but he said Earl Clark would be the player most immediately impacted. Clark will now return to playing small forward off the bench. With Gasol out, Clark was often playing power forward or even center.
The Lakers’ coach also said that Antawn Jamison will be the first player off the bench when Gasol runs out of gas.
When asked about Bryant, D'Antoni responded that he believed Bryant would start. Bryant had hinted as much on his Twitter account.
Dwight Howard also spoke to media at the morning shootaround, and his spirits have been elevated over the past few days. Along with doing a funny crying Terrell Owens impression at Thursday’s practice, Howard had told reporters that the first unit outscored the second unit 28-0 in a scrimmage.
When asked how accurate Howard was in his statistics, D’Antoni said it was “30 something, so he just missed out by about 10 points.”
D’Antoni was quick to dismiss the practice performance, but the team appeared to be in good spirits entering the final 13 games of an unbelievably unlucky season.