Pau Gasol says knees will be good
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Pau Gasol said Saturday he will not be available for the start of training camp as he continues to recover from offseason procedures in both knees. However, the Los Angeles Lakers' big man believes he will be back in time for the regular season.
"We're going to get into practices and get a feel of how the knees react and get into training slowly," said Gasol, who was cleared by Dr. Steve Yoon of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic this week to continue to ramp up his workouts. "I haven't done really a lot of basketball stuff. I haven't done a lot of contact yet. So we'll see how it feels. But the goal is to be ready for opening night, and whichever way it takes to get there, that's what we're going to do."
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Gasol, who missed 33 games last season because of various injuries, underwent a procedure known as the FAST technique (Focused Aspiration of Scar Tissue) in May to address the tendinosis in both of his knees.
"It wasn't fun," Gasol said. "It was a painful recovery at first. Then a week after I did the procedure I had to get the stem cells out of my back and shoot them up through my tendons. So that irritated them again. But a few weeks after that I was able to walk again and live a little bit of a normal life. But then I had to give time to the knees to recover and to absorb what I injected, so I had to wait until August to start working again. Then it's been good since then."
The Lakers are hoping for more than "good" out of Gasol this season. General manager Mitch Kupchak said that Gasol should return to an All-Star level of play this season with Dwight Howard gone and the middle of the court just waiting for him to occupy it on the Lakers' offensive end. The four-time All-Star hasn't been voted to the league's midseason showcase since 2011.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni also was bullish on the 33-year-old Gasol's chances of success this season.
"Pau's probably the best offensive center in the league," D'Antoni said, "the most talented big guy in the league. So, all of a sudden he's in his natural position where he'll feel good about it."
After spending the last two seasons playing the bulk of his minutes at power forward because of the one-year rental of Howard last year and the emergence of Andrew Bynum the year before, Gasol is primed to resume play at the 5-spot.
"Being in a position where I can play a little more inside and be the reference inside and come back to that position, it makes me feel better, more confident," Gasol said. "I'm confident that I'll be more effective and deliver."
Gasol averaged a career-low 13.7 points last year, his 46.6 field goal percentage was the least accurate of his 12 years in the league, and his 8.6 rebounds per game was his lowest average since 2007-08. The Lakers also struggled by and large, getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs in a season that started with championship aspirations.
There is plenty of motivation for Gasol to make up for that both personally and within a team framework.
"We're still very demanding of ourselves, and we have to be in order to be good and get better," Gasol said. "I understand that a lot of people are overlooking us right now, and that's fine. At the end, what's going to matter is what's going to happen out there. Actions speak louder than words. So we'll see how we start."