Pau Gasol: Lakers Star's Potential Return Is Necessary for Playoff Push

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2013

FRESNO, CA - OCTOBER 07:  Pau Gasol #16  and Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers talk as they walk to the bench during the game with the Golden State Warriors at Save Mart Center At Fresno State on October 7, 2012 in Fresno, California.  The Warriors won 110-83.  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)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With Kobe Bryant’s health in question, the Los Angeles Lakers would welcome Pau Gasol back into the lineup.

It seems Gasol will be granting that wish.

Coach Mike D’Antoni told Kevin Ding of the Orange Country Register that the Lakers star forward would likely be in uniform Sunday or Monday. Gasol will replace Earl Clark in the starting lineup, which will allow Clark to come in as a defensive substitute—a role he is better suited for.

Even crazier, Gasol told ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin that he could even dress Friday night against the Indiana Pacers:

Boy, could the Lakers use Gasol. With Bryant not at full strength, the Lakers will have to replace his 28-point average and find a late-game option. While Gasol wasn’t able to find a home in D’Antoni’s offense earlier in the season, the team has shifted to a slower pace that should be better suited for his game.

Gasol should be able to score in half-court sets with Steve Nash at the controls, while spreading the floor for Dwight Howard to get touches in the paint.

In addition, if Howard can continue to provide a defensive lift as he has in recent games, the Lakers can trot out a Jamison-Gasol-Howard frontcourt. That trio would be a tough assignment for any team’s defense.

Sure, there will be growing pains for stretches, but Howard has gotten much more comfortable in a Lakers uniform than when Gasol last was on the floor. He's on pace to have his highest monthly total of blocks and steals combined in March.

Several of their lineups featured a Gasol-Howard frontcourt that averaged 1.05 points per possession or higher, so scoring won’t be an issue. Defense may be a whole other can of worms, but the Lakers are flawed defensively with their current roster as it is.

Howard and Gasol together will be a tough matchup for any team in the post, and they’ll have to exploit that matchup if they want any chance to win with Bryant hobbled.

Somehow, the Lakers managed to become even more interesting. Gasol is about to reenter the spotlight and will tilt the Lakers' playoff hopes.