Lakers News: Pinpointing Potential Return Date for Pau Gasol

Mike MoraitisAnalyst IMarch 9, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 03:  Injured player Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands during the national anthem before the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on March 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 99-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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In a season filled with negatives, Los Angeles Lakers fans have some good news: It appears Pau Gasol is close to returning to the team.

According to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, Gasol is at least two weeks away from returning to game action as he continues to progress in his recovery from a torn plantar fascia:

The Lakers' plan is for Gasol to ramp up his running gradually, and barring any setbacks, he should be running on the court next week. The plan does not include him beginning basketball activities yet, however, so he is unlikely to return to game action until at least two weeks passes.

Gasol has not played in a game since Feb. 5 against the Brooklyn Nets. He was averaging 13.4 points and eight rebounds per game, which are numbers the Lakers have missed from the bench in his absence.

This is encouraging news for the Lakers, which are making a push for the playoffs and need all the help they can get in the big man department after losing Jordan Hill to a season-ending injury earlier in the year. On top of that, Dwight Howard has battled shoulder issues this season, so Gasol could give him a breather here and there.

So, which game on the Lakers schedule could mark Gasol's return?

Per Ding's report, it looks like the earliest Gasol will return is in two weeks. If that's the case, the seven-footer will be back on Mar. 25 against the Golden State Warriors on the road.

If that timetable is a bit off, then we could expect to see him in one of L.A.'s final three road games for the month of March against Minnesota, Milwaukee or Sacramento.

The game against Minnesota or Sacramento would be most ideal because the Lakers could work in a rusty Gasol without worrying about him costing them a game. In fact, in most cases, getting a returning player in the rotation against a losing team is always the best bet.

Los Angeles would love to get Gasol back by the first week of April at the latest. In that week, the Lakers have matchups against the Dallas Mavericks (home), Memphis Grizzlies (home) and Los Angeles Clippers (away).

If all goes well, Gasol should be ready for action at some point during the last week of March, but if not, the first week of April sounds about right. No matter what, the Lakers look like they can get to the playoffs without him, but his presence on the floor would certainly help their cause for the regular season and most certainly in the playoffs.