Playing center in the absence of Andrew Bynum (knee), Pau Gasol, bothered by a tight left hamstring, pushed through the discomfort and didn’t make things any worse en route to 16 points, five rebounds and five assists in three quarters of work.
“He did all right,” said Phil Jackson. “We’re still concerned, but it’s OK, he played under 30 minutes and that helped.”
Rookie Derrick Caracter, the lone backup big man for the Lakers until Bynum and Theo Ratliff return, had his best game as a Laker in relief of Gasol, scoring 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting and snagging four rebounds while blocking two shots in 21 minutes.
Nonetheless, the team is more than eager to get Bynum back into the mix. The 7-foot space-eater has increased his activity level with each practice, starting a few weeks ago with solo cardio exercises and accelerating all the way to a full contact five-on-five game with teammates on Saturday morning.
“He said he tired, which is natural, that’s going to happen,” said Jackson. “He said there was just one moment where he had a little twinge, but other than that he was OK … His conditioning is kind of the issue right now, and it’s timing more than anything else.”
It’s been customary for the Lakers to simply see how Bynum feels the day after a workout, and respond accordingly as far as what he does the next day. The team will take Sunday off, but if Bynum doesn’t have any set backs, soreness or swelling on Monday, he’ll get right back after it. It’s worth noting that the 23-year-old big man has yet to have a set back throughout his rehabilitation.
In other big man news, Ratliff resumed cardiovascular activity on the Alter G treadmill, but remains a few weeks away from playing.