Pau Gasol's Hamstring Wants Another Vacation

Gasol is out at least one game with another hamstring injury. But better to rest it now than in the playoffs.

Just when the Lakers played their best game of the season and crushed the second best team in the Western Conference Sunday, along comes another injury. Pau Gasol again. His hamstring again.

Tests (both an MRI and ultrasound, try getting them both with your healthcare coverage) showed that Gasol has a “mild to moderate” hamstring strain in his left leg. This is not the hamstring that was injured to start the season, it is the other one. As if that is somehow better.

The reports came back somewhat vague. Gasol will not play Tuesday against Houston but is “day to day” after that. Know that Gasol is not going to rush back. He is the son of a doctor in Barcelona, and is more aware of his body and its recovery than most athletes. He tried to rush back from a hamstring injury in training camp and twice faced setbacks that forced him to miss 11 games to start the season. Gasol is the kind of man who learns from his mistakes.

Phil Jackson said Gasol reported a tight hamstring before the game (he also said it happened in an odd way, which should be interesting). Then with 7:12 in the first quarter Sunday night, Gasol left the game with an injured left hamstring, and ended up back in the training room. He never came back out (not that there was a need, the Lakers were thumping the Mavericks by 35 points). He left the arena that night under his own power but walking gingerly.

The Lakers didn’t need Gasol against Dallas Sunday, but they are going to need him. January is going to be a month of tests for the Lakers, and it would be a lot tougher to pass them without Gasol (although Ron Artest will be back Tuesday night after missing five games for a concussion). Those tests include games at Orlando, Boston and Cleveland – likely one of those teams will make the Finals from the Eastern Conference.

But those games are not the Finals, and the playoffs in May and June are when the Lakers will really need Gasol. Not January. The team can survive without him for now.

They did to start the season, the Lakers went 8-3 in those games. Not bad, but not near as good as they were upon his return — 10 wins in a row to start and 19-3 overall since he came back. Now the Lakers will have to go back to finding ways to win without the guy that makes the offense flow. But it’s better for Gasol’s hamstring to rest now as opposed to June.

Kurt Helin lives in Los Angeles where he is runs the NBA/Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold (which you can also follow in twitter).

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