Ryan Kelly #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers is expected to continue getting more time due to his defensive play
The Los Angeles Lakers cannot catch a break. The day after Christmas, Pau Gasol was examined for his upper respiratory infection and was ruled out of the upcoming game in Utah. Officially, the Lakers’ center is listed as day-to-day with the illness, but he will not be on the team flight to Utah.
Multiple media members encountered Gasol in the parking lot, and the Spaniard did not look well by all accounts. He did not address the media on Thursday, but he labored through Wednesday’s game and the post-game press conference.
Gasol has been the focus of frustration from fans this season, as the 33-year-old has not played up to scratch this season. With Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake missing significant time this season, Gasol was expected to pick up the slack. However, that has not been the case.
Gasol suffered with an upper respiratory infection early in the season, but he did not miss any games.
On Thursday, Gasol told Serena Winters of LakersNation.com that the illness had “lingered,” and Winters also confirmed that Gasol did not look well.
Without Gasol in the lineup, the Lakers will likely look to Chris Kaman, Robert Sacre and Jordan Hill to shoulder a greater load in the center position. With Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni preferring Hill with the second unit, Kaman is a prime candidate to jump from not playing on Wednesday to starting on Friday.
Unfortunately, D’Antoni was not aware of Gasol being ruled out when he met with the media on Thursday, so the coach did not publicly address the situation.
In other Lakers’ practice news, Ryan Kelly talked about his increased playing time and his opportunity to guard LeBron James on Christmas. At one point during Wednesday’s game, the Lakers’ rookie found himself in a 1-on-1 isolation with the league’s Most Valuable Player. It didn't work out for Kelly, as James made the basket and drew a foul.
“It’s a challenge. It was a pretty easy challenge for him,” Kelly joked about guarding James on Thursday. “Like anything else, I was like ‘got to find a way to stop him’—didn’t. But that’s a learning experience and something to grow on.”
“He knows how to play,” D’Antoni praised Kelly on Thursday. “Defensively, he’s the first one to get to the right spot, and I think going forward he can earn more time. I pretty excited.”