Pau Gasol to start vs. Bobcats
Ramona Shelburne [ARCHIVE]
ESPNLosAngeles.com
December 18, 2012
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol will start Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats after sitting out the past eight games with tendinitis in both knees.

"There were no setbacks, so we're ready to go," Gasol said after the Lakers' morning shootaround. "There's no limitations. The sky's the limit."

Lakers guard Steve Nash isn't far behind him. Nash, who hasn't played since fracturing his leg on Halloween, is hoping to return Saturday against Golden State barring a setback in practice this week, a source close to the player confirmed to ESPNLosAngeles.com.

"That's the plan," the source said. On Monday night, a team source labeled Nash returning on Saturday as "50-50."

Nash said Tuesday morning that "Christmas (against the New York Knicks) is probably the most likely" because he hasn't gone through a full-contact practice and is still experiencing significant pain in his leg, but he left open the possibility of playing this weekend if practice Thursday and Friday go well.

"Everything I do causes some pain," Nash said. "With a broken bone, I think it takes time, especially after long periods of inactivity, to be pain-free. I think there might be three or four weeks where I'm still feeling it. But that doesn't mean I won't be able to play sooner."

Asked about the growing anticipation for his return, Nash said, joking, "A lot of people are excited for an out-of-shape guy to come and play."

The Lakers had been considering adding to their backcourt last week --considering, among others, free-agent guard Delonte West -- a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com. But after winning the past two games of their road trip and with Nash's return now imminent, they are more likely to wait a bit and see how the team performs with both Nash and Gasol back in the lineup before making any moves.

Gasol hasn't played since a Dec. 2 loss to the Orlando Magic. The Lakers have gone 3-5 in his absence. Gasol said he's worked on his conditioning and strengthening the area around his knees during the time off and believes it will help him fit better into new coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system.

Exactly what his role will be at the offensive end remains to be seen.

"This first game back, I'm not too worried about it," Gasol said. "As we progress, it's something I'd like to see some progress on it."

The 7-foot Spaniard struggled under D'Antoni's system before his injury. In the interim, there has been endless debate both within and outside the organization as to how he should be used, and even whether he can ultimately fit in.

Last week, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said he'd spoken to D'Antoni about how best to use Gasol.

"Pau needs to be in the post more, for sure," Bryant told ESPNNewYork.com. "We (Bryant and D'Antoni) spoke about that. When he gets back, he'll be in his sweet spots for sure."

Gasol said Tuesday that he and D'Antoni have spoken at length about the issue and he has a better understanding of what's expected of him, but admits there's still issues to be worked out.

"We have such talent individually, right now with Kobe and Dwight (Howard) being the main guys, being the focus of the offense, he wants the rest of the guys to be spread, to facilitate, to give us balance, to move the ball, because if everybody did their individual thing, we wouldn't be in good shape," Gasol said of the message he's received from D'Antoni.

"So we'll see. I'll try to be aggressive, I'll try to get to positions where I'm confortable and can be effective. But at the same time, we want to give space to our guards to penetrate the lane and find open guys. I think when Steve comes back, that will help in that factor."

D'Antoni said he believes Gasol will adjust to the system and his role now that he feels better physically.

"If he feels good physically, he is who he is, one of the best players in the league," D'Antoni said. "He wasn't feeling good before. Now, hopefully he's better.

"It's hard to feature everybody. We want him in there because he's good. We want him everywhere. We want him featured as everybody should be featured on every play. The ball is going to find one guy hopefully in a great position to score. I'm just not real big on pinpointing you go here. I don't like that. Then you do this. That ball moves and it finds the weak spot in the defense. Then the guys is wide open. Then he's going to make a shot.

"Metta (World Peace) played the role the other day and scored points. Antawn (Jamison) scored 30 some. That role, it doesn't matter what role you play. That role Amar'e (Stoudemire) played a lot of times and he scored over 30. It's there. It's just a matter of us sharing the ball and moving the ball and everybody moving and feeling good about things.

"You'll be surprised how many times Dwight should get in the post. Kobe gets his opportunities. Everybody gets their opportunities. But everybody has to understand when Steve comes back, you have six guys out there where not everybody will be able to score 30 points every night. Some guys will. But they all should have career years."

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Stephen A. Smith was used in this report.

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