Return of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol Will Charge Los Angeles Lakers Up Standings

Things are looking up for the Los Angeles Lakers. Yesterday, Dave McMenamin of reported that Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are likely to return Friday for the Lakers home game against the Washington Wizards.

Currently, the Lakers are one game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth playoff slot in the Western Conference. With the regular season ending on April 17, the Lakers have little time to either make or break their playoff dreams.

Though if Gasol and Bryant return, Los Angeles has a good chance of getting that final spot in the playoffs. All five Lakers starters—Gasol, Bryant, Howard, Nash and World Peace—have played together for only 17 total games this season, making for an inconsistent and rocky season for Los Angeles.

However, coach Mike D’Antoni said of the two injured starters, “Hopefully Kobe [Bryant] and Pau will be back Friday, hopefully, and then we can start going forward with everybody that we need to have.”

Gasol, who suffered a plantar fascia tear in his right foot that has caused him to miss 20 games, underwent an ultrasound on Tuesday that revealed his injury to be healing properly. Gasol said of his near return, “I feel confident, but we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves.”

He added, “Right now, it’s all or nothing…We’re down the last stretch, and we have to give our very best as individuals and as a group in order to have the best shot.”

However, Gasol is still healing, and will not be able to play a large amount of minutes because he’s been off the court for so long. D’Antoni said of the power forward, “His minutes might fluctuate early, because he doesn’t have the stamina to stay out there.”

Kobe Bryant has been out for less time, but his absence has, nevertheless, hurt the Lakers. Bryant suffered a left ankle sprain last week in the ...

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