Pau Gasol won’t pinpoint return

The wait for Pau Gasol continues.

After his plans to play against Phoenix on Monday had to be scrapped because he experienced soreness in his recovering right foot, the veteran Lakers forward said Sunday he was no longer publicly targeting a specific game for his return.

“I don’t want to put any dates out there, so there are no disappointments or surprises,” he said.

Gasol said foot specialist Kenneth Jung told him the discomfort he experienced Saturday while playing two-on-two at the Lakers’ practice facility was to be expected as he increased the intensity in his return from the tear inside the bottom of the foot he suffered early last month.

“It’s a pretty normal reaction from the injury that I had,” Gasol said.

After playing Phoenix, the Lakers have three days off before playing host to Washington on Friday. That could allow Gasol to test his foot in practice a few times before a possible return.

The extra rest will also presumably help Gasol recover from a cold he has been battling since the Lakers traveled to Orlando last week.

Whenever Gasol comes back, it probably will be as a starter. He was mostly coming off the bench in the weeks before his foot injury except as an injury replacement for Dwight Howard.

What has changed since then?

“Well, I think Pau went up to another level with his play,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said of Gasol, who averaged 20 points and 8.7 rebounds in the last three games before he was sidelined. “So that changed. I think as you get to the playoffs that experience and being able to perform under certain conditions is a big factor and he’s more comfortable starting.”

D’Antoni said the Lakers would still largely play with a small lineup. That means either Howard or Gasol will be on the court from 16 to 20 minutes a game while the other player rests.

A silenced voice

Typically demonstrative with his teammates when he’s on the bench, Kobe Bryant did not emerge from the locker room Sunday at Staples Center during the Lakers’ 113-102 victory over Sacramento.

Having flu in addition to his severely sprained left ankle might have had something to do with it.

Bryant’s absence could have actually simplified matters for D’Antoni.

“You just have to make sure he’s saying the right things because he could be giving them different directions,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a little bit of a loose cannon, but obviously he knows what he’s talking about and if he sees some things, great.

“But it’s a little scary sometimes.”

Twitter: @EricPincus