With 29 games remaining in the 2013-14 season, the Los Angeles Lakers got back to work on Tuesday, and Pau Gasol was a familiar face in the crowd. The Lakers have rarely dressed enough players to be referred to as a crowd, but Gasol’s return meant LA’s front court was healthy and deep once again.
In the back court, Jordan Farmar and Jodie Meeks also returned to practice and joined Steve Blake and Kendall Marshall to add some depth at the guard positions. However, Farmar is still considered doubtful to take part in Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets, but Meeks expects to be ready to play against his old buddy, Dwight Howard. Whether Meeks starts or not remains questionable, however.
Gasol is a game-time decision for Wednesday, which happens to be Howard’s first game against the Lakers in LA following a sour off-season departure.
“It felt pretty good today,” Gasol said about his work at Tuesday’s practice. “(I’m) still not 100 percent--actually, (this was) my first practice in two and a half weeks. It’s a good step forward. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
If Gasol cannot play, Chris Kaman will likely start. At Tuesday’s practice, the two 7-footers scrimmaged against each other, and both had their moments. However, when Gasol returns, Kaman’s minutes expect to drop dramatically despite his strong play of late.
In his last three appearances, Kaman averaged 23.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. With the Lakers light on talent, Kaman was forced to take a leading role in the Lakers’ offense, and the 7-footer still managed to shoot 51.7 percent from the field.
With the Spaniard returning, however, Kaman’s role will likely reduce to being a backup who struggles to get on the court on a nightly basis. Initially, Kaman and Gasol playing in tandem appeared to be the lineup the Lakers were leaning toward, but as the season got underway, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni preferred to play with an undersized power forward over the twin-tower lineup.
Nearly two thirds of the way into the season, Kaman has only started seven games and only appeared in 29 contests. That limited involvement was due more to the coach's preference for Gasol with a smaller line-up rather than a lack of production on Kaman's part.
In other Lakers’ injury updates, Kobe Bryant expects to be reexamined on Wednesday, but a source close to the team said that no dramatic improvement was expected on that front. Xavier Henry expects to be reevaluated at the end of the week, and Nick Young is considered day-to-day. Steve Nash has no set timeline to return, but the Canadian was visible shooting alone and working with Lakers physical therapist Judy Seto on exercises.
Tuesday’s practice may still have featured a medical list of injury updates, but this time around, the Lakers actually had enough guys to take part in a full court scrimmage.