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D’ANTONI: “GASOL WILL START WHEN HE RETURNS”
Thu, 13 Dec 2012 10:21 PM EST

Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol missed his 4th straight game due to knee tendinitis Sunday against the Utah Jazz, but whenever he is able to return he won’t be coming off the bench.

“Not yet, that is not what we need to be doing right now,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni announced of the possibility of using Gasol in a 6th man role. “We need to find him and Steve (Nash) in there together and take a look at it and make a good assessment. I envision him being really good at what he does at the 4, so I don’t see that.”

Although part of the incentive of keeping Gasol in the starting lineup is to see how he performs alongside Nash, D’Antoni said that Gasol will retain his starting position even if he returns to the lineup before Nash is back.

“I’m not going to mess with Pau,” D’Antoni said. “He’s too important to the team and he’s earned it and he’s too good of a player to even go there. That will be a last resort kind of desperate (move).”

Gasol didn’t participate in shootaround Sunday. He has spent his time out of the lineup strengthening his gluteal and quadriceps muscles to alleviate the pressure on the patellar tendons in his knees as well as going through ice treatment and taking pain relief drugs. Gasol has worked out on the elliptical machine, but still has to think full-on running yet.

“They wanted complete rest for 3 or 4 days, which he’s done, probably in Cleveland or someplace he is going to start moving a little bit,” D’Antoni said. “If the pain is less or very little, then he’ll play. But, we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

The L.A Lakers begin a 4-game trip in Cleveland, followed by games against Knicks, Wizards and 76ers.

D’Antoni said Nash is nearing his return after being out since the 2nd game of the season with a cracked fibula in his left leg and could play sometime on the road trip. Betting lines

“I think it’s possible,” D’Antoni said. “I wouldn’t put my reputation on it, it’s possible.”

D’Antoni later backed off his assessment of Nash when he spoke to correspondents before the Jazz game.

“Steve likely won’t play this trip,” D’Antoni related. “I’m always hoping maybe, but that’s me, that’s not likely going to happen.”

Nash spent Sunday’s shootaround working out with Lakes strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco.

“He’s ramping it up,” D’Antoni declared of Nash. “He’s even sweating over there, so that’s good. I think he’s getting there. He just has no desire to take any steps back. He wants to be 100 %, which I want him to be as well. It’s just too important to the team to get him (before) he feels great.”

Nash has participated in individual shooting and dribbling drills, but still has to try sprinting and hard cuts with his recovering left leg.

“I need it so bad, sometimes I think I am seeing things,” D’Antoni related when asked about Nash’s progression. “It may not be there, so I do not know. Obviously he’s doing more, but he’s a ways to go yet.”


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