Pau Gasol’s Return Will Make Los Angeles Lakers Dangerous Playoff Team

Time heals all wounds. The Los Angeles Lakers certainly hope that will be the case when Pau Gasol returns to action.

Gasol has been out since February 5 after straining the plantar fascia in his right foot against the Brooklyn Nets (per ESPN). According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, Mike D’Antoni expects his forward to be back in action as early as Friday against the Washington Wizards.

Before Gasol’s injury, the Lakers were struggling to stay afloat in the Western Conference. Pre-trade-deadline rumors involving Dwight Howard’s future were still swirling and Gasol had been relegated to a bench role in hopes of creating better opportunities in the paint for Howard.

Nothing seemed to be working.

The 32-year-old forward wasn’t happy with his new role, but it didn’t last long. With Gasol on the sidelines, the Lakers found some rhythm, winning 13 of 20 games since February 6.

That stretch of quality basketball (aided in large part by Howard’s revitalized play) has moved the Lakers into eighth place in the Western Conference and the playoffs now seem like a very real possibility.

Gasol’s presence on the court wasn’t the reason the Lakers sputtered for much of the season; he was simply caught up in a situation in which no one on the team could develop any consistent chemistry.

The pressure was already mounting, and Gasol—like the rest of the team—fell victim to its crushing nature.

When the seven-footer returns, it won’t be to the same team he left. Los Angeles is playing much more inspired basketball at this point in the season, and it seems Howard, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant have discovered the formula for success—even with the pressure of a playoff berth bearing down.

Bryant is recovering from a combination of a sprained ankle and the flu (per ESPN), but he too ...

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