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Lakers miss that certain someone : Slumping team hopes to get injured Gasol back Thursday. Bryant OK, but Walton is out.

November 17, 2009|Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner

Pau Gasol practiced Monday. Translation: Here we go again.

This time, the Lakers forward seemed upbeat that he would not have another setback in his prolonged recovery from a strained right hamstring.

On a day filled with injury news -- Kobe Bryant practiced, but Luke Walton will be out at least six weeks because of an injured back -- Gasol's possible return Thursday against Chicago carried more weight than everything else combined.

"It's possible," Gasol said Monday. "I definitely need a couple days of testing it out and making sure that it's not getting aggravated. I didn't get this far to take another [break] because of trying to do too much too quick and setting myself back again."

Gasol has missed all 10 games this season, though he went through part of a full-court scrimmage Monday and absorbed some contact, good signs for an All-Star who averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds last season.

"It felt pretty good, actually," Gasol said. "I was happily pleased with everything we did and how my hamstring responded to it."

Gasol has gone through a practice on two separate occasions over the last few weeks, only to report soreness the next day and be forced to dial back his regimen.

"This time it felt different," Gasol said. "I feel pretty confident that [today] will be another good day."

The Lakers (7-3) will take him back, eagerly, knowing they have bogged down after consecutive losses to Denver and Houston. At the same time, Coach Phil Jackson appeared to be mildly frustrated when asked whether tonight's game against Detroit was too early for Gasol to return.

"Not for me, but for him I think it is," Jackson said. "I think he's going to want to have . . . a little more confidence that he can respond or react to things he has to react to."

One injured player will definitely be on the court tonight.

Bryant practiced Monday with no complications from a strained right groin a day after making only five of 20 shots against Houston.

"It was tight and stuff like that, but it wasn't enough to keep me out of there," he said after practice.

Walton, on the other hand, was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in his back that will sideline him at least six weeks. He has been almost a non-factor this season, averaging 3.7 points in 10.6 minutes a game.

The Lakers had little desire to review their last six quarters of play -- a lousy second half in Denver and an inexplicable home loss to Houston -- but there was no hiding the fact they were booed by the crowd at Staples Center. Some fans wondered out loud whether the Lakers were resting on their NBA championship laurels.

The Lakers settled for too many jump shots, instead of driving to the basket. They were also badly out-rebounded by the smaller Rockets, 60-38, which still irked Jackson a day later.

"Their little guard, [Kyle] Lowry, got two offensive rebounds, took one away from 'Drew [Andrew Bynum] and put it in for a three-point play that was kind of emblematic of our game," he said. "It was a 'desire' play. They just took it away from us and put it in our face and made us pay."

Bynum is averaging 20.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game while shooting 59.6%, fifth-best in the NBA. Yet in the last two games, the Lakers have frequently gone away from him.

Lamar Odom seemed miles away in Sunday's loss, his five fouls and five turnovers a telltale sign. Derek Fisher has struggled all season with his offense. He's shooting just 33.3%, including 27.6% on three-point attempts.

Fisher said the Lakers weren't happy with the current situation, either, but it was important to keep things in perspective.

"We understand that in order for us to achieve our goals, we're going to have to continue to get better," Fisher said. "And sometimes in order to get better, you're going to have to suffer through some things, some adversity, some ups and downs.

". . . The better teams, the championship teams are the teams that learn from nights like last night as opposed to making excuses or coming up with reasons why. We just figure it out, keep playing."

The Lakers haven't lost three consecutive games since acquiring Gasol in February 2008. Will it happen tonight?

"One game is a bump in the road for this team and they feel it. Two is kind of an embarrassment," Jackson said. "Three, we don't even want to think about that."


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