The Los Angeles Lakers are doing their absolute best to put together a late season run into the playoffs. The have won their last seven of 10 games in the month of March and seem to have built enough chemistry to possibly keep the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have done all of this without Pau Gasol. As Gasol enters back into the lineup Friday, will his return throw off Lakers' momentum?
Gasol has been absent for the last six weeks as he recovers from a foot injury. The Lakers should have all key players healthy Friday against Washington, which fans would think would be a great thing for the last few weeks of the season. However, since Feb. 1, Gasol and Dwight Howard have not played a game together. In that stretch the Lakers are 16-7. Does Gasol's return mean the team struggles again? Howard and Gasol have not proved to be productive while on the court at the same time. Howard in the post with Gasol on the perimeter did not work, so how will head coach Mike D'Antoni mend the issue? Two centers on the court at the same time is not meshing for the Lakers.
When the Lakers have Howard, Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace all on the court, they are 0-5. That lineup would presumably be successful on paper, but on the court it has not been effective. They need to hold on to the No. 8 seed and integrating Gasol back into the lineup will be key.
"We can't do anything in the playoffs without Pau being comfortable. Pau is too talented and too good, Dwight is too talented and too good, not to figure it out," D'Antoni said.
Both Gasol and Howard want to be the premier blocker of the Lakers when only one will do. They have been unable to get into a rhythm as everyone is running into the post at the same time. If the relationship between the two is going to work, Gasol and Howard need to give each other space. D'Antoni believes one player at the baseline and one at the mid-post will work better for the Lakers in the long run.
There are thirteen games remaining on the Lakers schedule. The team has possibly locked in the eighth spot as Utah is now two games back. However they can easily blow their chances at the playoffs if they do not figure out how to get Gasol and Howard to play nice with each other.