Pau Gasol and Steve Nash sit on the bench during the second half during the… (Rob Carr /Getty Images )
The Lakers received a bit of good news Monday as Pau Gasol and Steve Nashparticipated in a light, noncontact practice.
Gasol (knee tendinitis) isn't officially cleared to play Tuesday night when the Lakers host the Charlotte Bobcats, but he should be able to return from an eight-game absence if he suffers no ill effects from Monday's workout.
Nash is shooting to play in the Lakers' Christmas Day game against the New York Knicks, which would mean another two games without the veteran point guard. The Lakers lost Nash when he suffered a broken bone in his left leg in the second game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers. He has missed 23 games.
"I'm feeling well. I'm happy with the practice that I did today and how I felt," Gasol said. "We don't want to make the decision quite yet today, so we'll see tomorrow in the morning how I feel and decide then."
The Lakers went 3-5 without Gasol. With injuries to Steve Blake (abdominal surgery), Jordan Hill(back), Nash and Gasol, along with a coaching change, the Lakers have struggled to an 11-14 record.
With reinforcements finally on the way, the Lakers are still just three games behind the sixth-place Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference.
Barring major slides from teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriorsand Clippers, the Lakers may have a difficult time climbing into the top four by the end of the regular season.
The return of two starters should certainly result in improved play, once Gasol and Nash get their conditioning back in full.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.