Pau Gasol Injury: What Lakers Must Do to Cope with Big Man's Absence

Alex KayCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2013

Feb. 5, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) is checked by the trainer after an apparent injury on the court against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half at Barclays Center. Lakers won 92-83. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are likely going to be without Pau Gasol for the next six weeks, as CBS Sports’ Ken Berger has found an MRI revealed the Spaniard partially tore his plantar fascia.

This is a huge blow to a team that is desperately trying to win games and remain in postseason contention, a hope that is quickly fading in the face of mounting injuries and other struggles.

While the 12-year veteran was having his worst season since coming to L.A. over five years ago, he was still averaging 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 33.4 minutes per contest before suffering this foot injury against the Brooklyn Nets.

With Dwight Howard ailing due to a torn labrum, Gasol made his way out of coach Mike D’Antoni’s doghouse and assumed the starting center duties while D12 sat.

Considering that Gasol is no longer an option in the Lakers’ already thin frontcourt, superstar Kobe Bryant has begun putting the heat on Howard to return, claiming that time is of the essence.

According to ESPN’s staff, the Black Mamba recently stated in an interview: “We don't have time for (Howard's shoulder) to heal. We need some urgency… We don't have three years. We've got this year."

Bryant admitted that D12 isn’t used to having an organization and player push him—especially in the face of injury—but the Lakers are a winning franchise and demand excellence. Kobe has played through a torn labrum before and knows it is possible to still compete at a high level, so there’s no surprise that he’s pressuring Howard to do the same.

If Howard is unable or refuses to fight through the pain, the Lakers’ playoff dreams will be on life support. The team would need to choose between rookie Robert Sacre (best known for his ridiculous celebrations) logging significant minutes, or going extremely small.

It’s a lose-lose situation and one that cannot improve until Howard steps back on the court, or—and this is much less likely—GM Mitch Kupchak swings a blockbuster deal by the Feb. 21 deadline.

Expect the Lakers front office to work the phones over the next two weeks as a precaution, but the No. 1 goal in L.A. right now has to be coaxing Howard back onto the floor.

With a huge game against the bitter rival Boston Celtics coming up on Thursday night, you can bet the Lakers fans will be clamoring for the superstar center to return to action.

His presence is not only necessary for the Lake Show to pull out a victory in Beantown, but also to keep the postseason hope alive.