March 18, 2013 |

When Gasol Is Ready He Will Start

Pau Gasol is close to returning to the Lakers. And, according to Coach Mike D’Antoni, Gasol will regain his starting position in place of Earl Clark.

Gasol has missed 20 games with a foot injury and had a most interesting weekend. I had a private interview scheduled with him last Saturday, but Gasol was troubled by the fact he had experienced pain in the right foot after playing in a two-on-two game that morning. For the previous week he had said there were no setbacks in his training.

But by Sunday Gasol was greatly relieved. Not only had the doctor said pain was normal because the player had increased his activity but D’Antoni had decided Gasol should be a starter.

Before he was injured Gasol was relegated to a reserve role because D’Antoni felt the smaller but swifter Clark was a better fit for the coach’s up-tempo offense.

But now D’Antoni has come to realize the Lakers’ slim chance of upsetting the elite Western Conference teams in the upcoming playoffs will be increased by having the more experienced Gasol in the lineup.

“I think it’s great,’ said center Dwight Howard. “Pau

The Lakers had expected Gasol to return Friday night in a Staples Center game against the Washington Wizards. Due to the setback the return may be moved back, but the playoffs don’t start for four weeks.

The Lakers have climbed into strong contention for a playoff berth with improved recent play, but the best they can hope for is a first round series against one of the top three conference finishers and they won’t have the home court advantage.

Forward Antwan Jamison, who scored 27 points as a reserve in Sunday’s win over Sacramento, is optimistic.

“We’re playing now like we’re supposed to,” he said.

The question will be did the Lakers wait too long to avoid a most difficult playoff task?

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