Lakers’ Pau Gasol is energized after an easy summer
The summer itinerary couldn’t have been any better for Pau Gasol.
Win an NBA championship in June. Go to South Africa a few weeks later to watch home country Spain win soccer’s World Cup. Teach teenagers how to play basketball on an NBA-sponsored trip to India in August. Head to Spain for some downtime in September.
A taxing summer it was not, by design.
The Lakers forward didn’t play for the Spanish basketball team in the world championships and didn’t do anything competitively until some one-on-one a couple of weeks ago against his brother, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.
After years of devoting his off-season to the Spanish team, Gasol experienced his first quiet summer since 2005, when he was told by Memphis doctors to stay off his feet because of a developing stress fracture in his foot. This time, Gasol stayed off the court simply because he had been on one so long.
“Last year, I came in a little worn out,” he said Sunday. “I wasn’t really fresh. I was a little fatigued and overloaded.”
Indeed, he sustained two separate hamstring strains that sidelined him for 17 games early last season. The Lakers hope he’s well-rested now because Andrew Bynum will miss about 15 games because of off-season knee surgery.
“I feel good about how fresh I am and how my body’s feeling and my mind’s feeling,” Gasol said. “I’m coming into it with a lot of energy and I’m just ready to go to work and get myself ready for a long year.”
Wait, how long?
Bynum’s timetable to return shifted again Sunday when Coach Phil Jackson said he expected the 22-year-old to be back slightly sooner than expected.
Jackson disagreed with Bynum’s proclamation a day earlier that he would be out until late November.
“We don’t know about that,” Jackson said. “We’ll see.”
Bynum might miss only the first two to three weeks of the season, Jackson said. The Lakers begin play Oct. 26 against Houston.
Guard Steve Blake sustained a mildly sprained left ankle after being shoved by Sasha Vujacic near the end of practice Sunday.
“Sasha gave him a little extra push,” Jackson said. “It’s a highly competitive drill we end with. These things happen.”
The injury is not considered to be serious, though Blake might be held out of practice Monday. The Lakers leave Thursday for Europe, where they play exhibition games Oct. 4 in London and Oct. 7 in Spain.
Health is always a concern for Jackson, something he gauges over the summer before making a decision to coach again.
Jackson is back with the Lakers, sporting a neatly trimmed gray beard, looking ready to lead his team in its quest to win a third consecutive championship.
“He looks better than he did last year,” Kobe Bryant said. “He looks great. He has a lot of energy. He’s moving around extremely well. He looks good.”
As for Bryant, the right knee he had surgery on over the summer is improving. He hasn’t practiced with the team, but he did a little work on his own Sunday.
“I’m just trying to take it step by step,” Bryant said. “I’m continuing trying to progress every day.”
The new ones
On the second day of training camp, Jackson had kind words for Blake and four other Lakers newcomers -- veterans Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, and rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks.
“Every one of them has a part of their game that is a reason why we brought them here,” Jackson said. “Caracter’s a tremendous offensive rebounder and he’s a real physical force in there. Matt showed some speed and quickness. Theo made some jump shots and blocked some shots out there. Steve Blake had a big influence on our practice today, just organizing his team. Devin Ebanks is very active and looks like he’ll be a pretty good defender too.”
Gasol vs. Gasol
So who won the series of one-on-one games between Pau and Marc Gasol this month?
“I can say that I won, without lying,” Pau Gasol said.
The two brothers played a series of games over three days in a workout facility owned by Regal FC Barcelona, the team the Lakers play next week in an exhibition.
It was brains versus brawn: Pau is the more skilled player, but Marc outweighs his older brother by at least 15 pounds.
“He uses his body a lot, and it’s good for me,” Pau said. “There’s a lot of pushing and shoving.”
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.
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