Wizards point guard John Wall collides with Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker… (Chuck Burton / Associated…)
The Lakers (36-33) host the Washington Wizards (24-43) on Friday night at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant (ankle) and Pau Gasol (foot) are both expected to return from injury against the Wizards.
Coach Mike D'Antoni said he intends to return Gasol to the starting lineup although he might give it a few games for Gasol to build up his conditioning.
The Wizards are better than their record. Point guard John Wall missed 33 games, which killed Washington's playoff hopes before they began.
Now the Wizards are a tough team to beat, although they still struggle to win on the road. Additionally guard Bradley Beal and A.J. Price aren't expected to play.
John Wall is leading the Wizards at 15.7 points a game while shooting 44.6% from the field. Wall averages 7.5 assists but also turns the ball over 3.7 times a game. He also doesn't have much of a three-point shot.
Steve Nash is going to have a difficult time staying in front of Wall. With Bryant coming back from the ankle injury, he might not be ready to defend quicker point guards.
Steve Blake could get bigger minutes with the Wall assignment.
Offensively, Nash's outside shot is crucial to help the Lakers spread the floor. He also needs to help integrate Gasol quickly back into the team's offense.
The Wizards have a lot of weapons including Nene, Trevor Ariza, Kevin Seraphin and Emeka Okafor. It always seems Martell Webster is the guy who hurts the Lakers with his outside shot. Webster is shooting 45.3% from three-point range this season.
If Beal plays, he's emerging as one of the brighter young guards in the league.
The X-factor for the Lakers moving forward is Gasol. How will he fit with Dwight Howard? What happens to Earl Clark in the rotation?
The Lakers lose speed and athleticism in Clark but Gasol is the superior player. Friday will just be a glimpse of what's to come.
The Lakers are trying to lock down at least the eighth seed in the West and possibly make a run to six or seven. Before they head out on a four-game road trip, they need to take care of the Wizards at home.
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