Pau Gasol: 'Better' than expected

Updated: October 28, 2013, 6:30 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The optimism surrounding Los Angeles Lakers veterans Steve Nash and Pau Gasol has gone in split directions since training camp opened last month.

Gasol came in unsure if he would be able to participate because of offseason procedures on both of his knees, but ended up leading the team in scoring (13.7 points) while chipping in 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in the preseason.

Nash came in saying how improved his body was after missing 32 games last season because of a broken leg and hip and groin injuries that stemmed from it, but he was extremely limited during the exhibition schedule, averaging just 4.0 points and 3.6 assists in 18.4 minutes.

"I feel better than what I expected," Gasol said after practice Sunday ahead of the Lakers' regular-season opener Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. "I'm really happy with how I feel right now. Now it's just a matter of we have a tough start, very demanding, a lot of games in a short period of time to start off. But hey, that's what the NBA is about sometimes and you got to get through it."

On the contrary, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said he is considering not having Nash play through the entire early schedule, which includes a back-to-back this week at home against the Clippers and on the road against the Golden State Warriors, followed by a third game in four nights back in L.A. against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.

"There's a possibility," D'Antoni said of Nash sitting out against Golden State. "We have to talk about it. I haven't talked to him. Obviously we'll see how he feels in the next couple of days, but it's very possible that he sits out."

D'Antoni said he and Nash likely would determine the point guard's playing status as each of L.A.'s 19 sets of back-to-back games come up in the schedule, rather than map it out beforehand and be married to the plan.

"It's hard to make a definitive answer right now because if one of my other point guards tweaks his ankle, he's playing," D'Antoni said of Nash. "If one guy has the sniffles, he's playing. So, we'll see how the team goes and we'll see where we are -- where we are in the schedule, where we are in the standings -- and see how he does. But the idea is to cut down the number of games and keep the minutes consistent for him, but the number of games come down."

D'Antoni said Nash definitely would play against the Clippers. Nash did not speak with reporters Sunday, but addressed the Lakers schedule out of the gate following L.A.'s 111-106 win over the Utah Jazz in their preseason finale Friday.

"I just look at the first one and see how it goes," Nash said then. "Who knows, right? I think you have to be open to anything, but for me, I am just preparing for that first game of the year. I want to have a great game and then see what happens after that."

The Lakers also will have Chris Kaman available for the season opener after the big man missed three practices and two games while being away from the team for eight days after coming down with a stomach virus.

"He was winded a little bit, a little rusty and not 100 percent," D'Antoni said. "But he wasn't bad."

Kaman had performed well in the preseason before his illness, averaging 11.2 points on 51.1 percent shooting and a team-high 7.8 rebounds while starting four of the five games in which he appeared.

The 11-year veteran said he did not know if he would return to the starting lineup in the regular-season opener, or if the Lakers would continue to go with a smaller, more athletic lineup with either Shawne Williams or Wesley Johnson in the starting frontcourt.

"I missed a lot of time," Kaman said. "I think they played a couple games with a small 4. It's never been my style of basketball. I've never been used to that. I always remember having to play against Phoenix back in the day when they had those lineups and it was always tougher to guard guys like that, they were more mobile. So, we'll see.

"Also, it depends defensively who we're going against. I think with DeAndre [Jordan] and Blake [Griffin], it might be tough to go smaller there but we'll see. Coach might have other ideas up his sleeve."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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