Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: January 16, 7:20 PM ET
Pau Gasol to start upon return
By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- "Earlsanity" might be taking the Los Angeles Lakers by storm, but Earl Clark will have to adjust to life off the bench again soon.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said that Pau Gasol will assume Clark's spot in the starting lineup as soon as he returns from the concussion that has sidelined the star forward for the past five games.
"(Bringing Gasol off the bench) would be tough," D'Antoni said before Tuesday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks. "We'll see (how) everything kind of plays out the way it is, but that's not my intention right now."
Gasol has struggled mightily this season, averaging just 12.2 points on 41.6 shooting -- both career lows for the 12-year veteran. Clark has flourished while Gasol has been recovering from his concussion, averaging 15.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 blocks in his past three games entering Tuesday.
When D'Antoni was asked a string of follow-up questions about Gasol's role when he returns, the coach allowed that bringing the Spaniard off the bench could be a future consideration.
"We're going down a road that I don't want to go yet, so we'll worry about that when it gets there," D'Antoni said.
Gasol will be re-examined by a neurologist Wednesday and could return to the court Thursday when the Lakers host the Miami Heat.
It wouldn't be anything new for D'Antoni to shuffle the starting lineup. Every player on the Lakers' roster other than Jodie Meeks, who is behind Kobe Bryant on the depth chart, has started at least one game this season.
"My job and everybody's job is get the best team on the floor at all times and (I'm) trying to find that combination," D'Antoni said. "When we're sure about something, we'll do it."
The Lakers are hoping D'Antoni will have another player to fit into his lineup sooner rather than later: Steve Blake.
Blake has been out since Nov. 11 and underwent abdominal surgery in early December. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his groin on Friday, according to the team's orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Steve Lombardo.
"Typically, three to four days isn't a sufficient amount of time to determine whether it's going to have a therapeutic benefit or not," Lombardo said about the PRP injection. "We're in a holding pattern now."
According to Lombardo, if the pain in Blake's adductor muscle that runs along his inner thigh does not start to subside, he will consult with two sports hernia specialists -- Dr. Craig Smith, who performed the procedure on Blake's abdomen, and Dr. Bill Brown in San Jose, Calif. -- to determine if an additional surgical procedure will be necessary.
"Hopefully, (the PRP) kicks in within the next week and he's out (on the floor) and tests (his groin) ... and then if he can play, and play with some discomfort, we're going to give him permission to," Lombardo said. "It's more a feel thing. There's not an objective way to measure it. If he has a little discomfort and he thinks he can play effectively, we're going to let him play. He's on board with that."
The long recovery process for Blake has been a rarity, considering the nature of his injuries.
"In my tenure with the team, this is the first time in maybe 500 players where a player needed surgery for it," said Lombardo, who has worked for the Lakers for 39 years.
Blake has played in only seven games this season, averaging 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals.
The Lakers also filed for a disabled player exception for Jordan Hill on Tuesday, general manager Mitch Kupchak told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Hill needs hip surgery and is expected to be out the rest of the season.
If the league grants the petition, the Lakers will be allowed to spend a little more than half of Hill's salary, about $1.78 million, in order to sign a free agent or to absorb a player's contract acquired in a trade.
According to Kupchak, the Lakers will not necessarily use the exception if it becomes available to them, especially with Clark unexpectedly stepping up in Hill's absence.
"There's no downside (to receiving the exception)," Kupchak told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "You never know what could happen."