The forward has sat out the past eight games for the Lakers due to knee tendinitis, and whilst he could earn another four days rest should he skip Tuesday's game against the Bobcats, Gasol and the Lakers' medical staff felt he was good to go keen to play against the Bobcats.
Mike D'Antoni says @paugasol will start tonight. He responded well to practice yesterday. LAL were 3-5 w/out Gasol.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 18, 2012
Gasol spoke about the return from his injury after the team's shootaround at practice on Monday, and told ESPN:
It's been two weeks—it's been a while. I miss playing and I miss being out there and competing with my team.
My knees are not in pain as they were. So if there's no need to miss another game, I won't miss another game...
The news comes as a huge boost for LA, who have struggled mightily so far this season—currently sitting a remarkable 12th in the Western Conference with an 11-14 record to date, something that few would have predicted at the start of the season.
Gasol's numbers have been reduced under new coach Mike D'Antoni so far this year, but his presence at both ends of the court will be definitely welcomed by the Lakers, who have now won consecutive games with road wins over the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers.
His return will likely signal a decline in minutes for star guard Kobe Bryant, who has averaged 42 minutes in his past six appearances.
However, what will be the most telling in Gasol's return is whether or not he can justify himself in and around the post again, with Dwight Howard proving to be the go-to man this season whilst the Spaniard struggles to find his place in D'Antoni's up-tempo system.
D'Antoni was coy in answering questions during the week on whether or not Gasol would see increased time in the post—stating via ESPN that:
Everybody wants everybody in the post; we can't put 15 guys in the post. We can't do it—it doesn't work. Because if you're posting him [Pau Gasol], that means you're not posting Dwight [Howard]. Then you get criticized for not positing Dwight.
We play Laker basketball. That ball is shared, that ball moves, we'll score in the first 16 seconds. Then after that we'll post some people up, we'll get people in their right spots to finish off a shot. It's a little crazy about some of the stuff that's being said.
But other than that, we're good. We're moving forward. [Gasol] is good at what's good at, and we'll exploit it...
The 7-footer did allude to the fact that his body has taken some time to adjust to the new system, telling the LA Times that he "can move around much, much better" but that the biggest challenge still remains "getting up and down and feel good about it" (per LA Times).
So will he see more time in the post against the Charlotte Bobcats and if he does, will it be a blessing or a curse of the Lakers in their desperate bid to get their season going once more? The answer to that is something that is still yet to be seen.
Gasol has averaged 12.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.8 offensive boards so far this season—meaning that he trails Howard in all three categories on the season to date. However, having said that, there is little doubting the connection that he and Bryant have had over the seasons in Los Angeles and little doubting his offensive presence when fed the ball in the post.
Either way, the return of the 32-year-old comes as a huge boost for LA, and one that they desperately need following their rough past few weeks.
Be it in terms of minutes reduced for Bryant or in terms of options gained in and around the post, Gasol's involvement against the Bobcats will be key to the Lakers' chances at continuing their winning streak—as it will for the remainder of their season to come.
What impact will the return of Pau Gasol have for LA?
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