Lakers' Steve Nash set to return

Updated: February 3, 2014, 11:29 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers will embark on a three-game trip without Kobe Bryant (left knee fracture) and Pau Gasol (strained right groin) joining the team on the flight to Minneapolis on Monday. Come Tuesday, however, the Lakers expect to have some other healthy bodies back in the lineup.

Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all practiced Monday and will be available to play against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, barring any setbacks.

"They're good," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I think they're all ready to go."

D'Antoni made sure to hedge a bit on the status update, however, and with as snake-bitten as his team has been, one could hardly blame him.

"It's possible," D'Antoni said. "We'll see how everybody wakes up, but there is a possibility all three could play."

The coach said he wondered if Nash, out since Nov. 10 with nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings, would ever make it back to the court.

"With the age and how his back is, yeah, I definitely [wondered]," D'Antoni said. "Again, it just shows his perseverance to overcome whatever just to play. He wants to play, obviously. And he's done an unbelievable job to get himself ready up to this point and we'll see how it goes."

Gasol's absence and the presence of the three point guards will present D'Antoni with lineup options. He said either Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill or Robert Sacre could fill in as the starting center.

D'Antoni said that Blake, out since Dec. 10 with a tear in his right elbow, could see time at shooting guard. Also, with Nash unlikely to play Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers on the second night of a back-to-back, there will be more time to split for the other guards.

Farmar, sidelined since Dec. 31 with a tear in his left hamstring, expressed some doubt about playing against the Wolves.

"I'm not sure about [Tuesday]," Farmar said. "We'll see. I'm available if they allow me to."

The question remains whether Kendall Marshall, who has averaged 11.9 points and 11.5 assists in 15 games as the starting point guard, will suddenly find himself without a role.

"I think he knows he's going to play," D'Antoni said. "Whether he starts or whether he doesn't, he'll have to [get used to the fact that] it won't be the same. He's not going to get 35 minutes no matter what he does. So, that's how the NBA is and he'll have to keep carving his niche out. He's played well, so he's got to continue that."

Kaman, who received a Did Not Play -- Coach's Decision in 10 of the Lakers' 15 games in January, sympathized with the position Marshall is in.

"I think Kendall is kind of in a whirlwind right now, trying to figure out what to do," Kaman said. "The poor guy has been doing it on his own for the last month and a half and now that everybody is back, he's like, 'What am I doing? What do I do?'"

For his part, the 11-year veteran Kaman said he has stayed ready to play.

"Unfortunately it comes with someone getting hurt before I have a chance to play, but it's part of the game," he said. "You kind of wait your turn."

Blake said that waiting around was "tough" as the Lakers plummeted to a 16-31 record, including losses in 18 of their past 21 games, but isn't discouraged as he attempts his comeback.

"I personally play for that moment, that game," he said. "I don't want anybody beating me or my team. I don't care what our record is. So, I'm just going to go out there and compete just because I love to compete, and I think everyone else should play that way too."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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