OKLAHOMA CITY — Steve Nash is inching his way back, going through a multitude of drills during Friday morning’s shootaround, even giving Dwight Howard a few pointers at the free-throw line. However, pinpointing the All-Star point guard’s eventually return is still not happening.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol will also miss Friday’s nationally televised game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (9:30 ET, ESPN) , his third in a row to sit out as he deals with tendinitis in his knees.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said it’s possible both could make it back when L.A. again hits the road for a four-game trip starting Tuesday at Cleveland. But he left plenty of wiggle room for that forecast.
“He’s not ready yet,” D’Antoni said of Gasol. “He’s getting better, just like Nash. I don’t know what that means, maybe Sunday, Monday or next week I don’t know.
“I would say it’s safe [to say they are out] until we go on the next road trip.”
The Lakers return home Sunday against Utah.
Nash hasn’t played since the second game of the season at Portland where he suffered a leg fracture. Gasol, the topic of recent great debate regarding his fit in D’Antoni’s offense, and subsequently trade rumors, first revealed he was dealing with a bothersome case of tendinitis in his knees after L.A.’s win at Dallas on Nov. 24.
He played in the next three games, averaging just nine points on 9-for-27 shooting. On the season, Gasol is averaging career lows of 12.6 points on 42.0 percent shooting.
He has expressed frustration with the number of jump shots coming his way and the lack of close-to-the-basket post-ups in D’Antoni’s offense. Those opportunities are in particularly short supply when Gasol shares the floor with Howard.
D’Antoni said he’s confident that Gasol can thrive in his offense and co-exist with Howard. He believes Gasol’s sore knees are a more significant reason for his decreased production than the system.
“I talk to him all the time and he says he’s fine,” D’Antoni said. “He’s got to adapt a little bit in his game because we’ve got a different system, but he’s able to. The guy’s so talented, I just don’t think he felt real well to be able to play as well as he could and when that happens you’re trying to explain to you guys [the media] what’s going on; you don‘t want to make an excuse, but at the same time, so how do you explain it?
“He’ll feel better, he’ll play better, we’ll play better for him. But again, somebody that big, that talented, that good, has won two titles, so it shouldn’t be any question about his character or how he plays. I won’t question that, that’s for sure. It’s just we need to integrate him a little bit better.”