Before the fourth and final game of the season between the Sonics and the Lakers, Coach Jackson provided updates op the injury status of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Jackson said that Bynum continues to progress, working out on the treadmill and shooting on the floor. Jackson said that Gasol was on the floor doing some things today, with his activity level continuing to increase. According to the Lakers coach, he’s not anticipating that Pau will play in the home-and-home against Golden State beginning this Sunday, but it would be a welcome surprise.
With the addition of Ira Newble–signed to a 10-day contract today–Jackson said that he expects the forward to contribute, but it will be difficult at first with only a limited shooting practice before tonight’s game. “He’s just there to protect our roster right now…he’s an experienced player that ca go and do some things, cover some of our patches if we have some over the course of the game,” said Jackson.
“Hopefully in the next week, he’ll have an opportunity to play a couple of times…” Jackson praised Newble’s ability to guard opponents’ toughest players, saying, “He’s a defensive player, noted for his defense. He’s had some good games against us as a player in the past.” After Kobe, Jackson said that Sasha is the Lakers’ lone defender at the wing spot with Ariza still out with injury, so Newble will serve as a stopgap in case Trevor is unable to return this season.
Looking ahead to the final stretch of the season, Jackson said that he believes the Lakers would be the favorite to finish with the best record in the Western Conference if they were completely healthy. Even so, Jackson expressed confidence that the Lakers can still tie up the number one seed due to their relatively soft schedule down the stretch. Jackson noted that in the difficult West, even a team like Houston that won 22 straight games could drop from first to eighth in a matter of a week. Additionally, Jackson said that this season is unique as even a team like San Antonio that is currently in the middle of the pack could find success in the playoffs even if they don’t secure home court advantage.