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.
D'Antoni suggested @paugasol will return from foot injury Monday at Phoenix. D'Antoni intends to start and finish with Pau, sooner or later.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) March 15, 2013
I asked Pau after shootaround if he was playing Sunday or Monday. He shrugged and said, "Or Friday." Maybe he plays tonight?— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) March 15, 2013
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.
Who Will Be the Lakers' Crunch-Time Option With Kobe Bryant Sidelined?
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.