EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Pau Gasol has spent far too much of the past 10 days in dark rooms with no distractions. He's eager to get back under the NBA's bright lights as the Los Angeles Lakers try to get it together in time for a playoff run.
Gasol expects to return from a concussion on Thursday night when the Lakers host the Miami Heat. The 7-foot Spaniard was optimistic about his health and the Lakers' chances after going through a short workout with his teammates Wednesday at their training complex.
"Everything felt good, and tomorrow will be a go," said Gasol, who has missed five games since Denver's JaVale McGee accidentally elbowed him in the face.
"I'll have to ease my way back into it, because this is the first day I've actually got some good work done on the court," Gasol added. "After a week and a half of inactivity, your body needs a certain time to get back out there and perform at your best. ... It's hard also to behave when you have a concussion and you're at home, and they tell you no TV, no computer, no reading. What are you supposed to do? It's hard just to stay still at home, especially if you're an active person. So you learn it's no joke."
Gasol and the Lakers (17-21) both realize they've got to recover quickly from recent setbacks. Although they've won two straight heading into their visit from the defending NBA champions, the star-studded team is still facing an uphill climb in the second half of the season just to make the playoffs.
Los Angeles decisively beat Cleveland and Milwaukee over the past four days, but only after a six-game losing streak that dropped them well out of the Western Conference's top eight. The Lakers are feeling a bit better about themselves after those two wins, particularly with Dwight Howard in top form since his return from a shoulder injury, but Kobe Bryant knows Miami will provide a better barometer on their collective recovery.
"It's a good measuring stick for us to see how much we've improved since last week, when we played against several top teams and they all beat us," Bryant said. "This is a big test with the defending champs coming to town."
Yet Bryant realizes the Lakers haven't looked capable of contending with elite teams like Miami and Oklahoma City, which routed the Lakers last week. Los Angeles' four biggest stars have played together only for short stretches of the season, and Gasol is eager to see how the Lakers can handle coach Mike D'Antoni's offense when they're all together again.