D'antoni: "He played well today. I expect him and Kobe back Friday, but we'll see how tomorrow goes and if he's up to it."
But skeptical per Gasol.
Gasol: "I just want to take my time and not rush back. We'll see how it feels after the 5 on 5.". "It's about confidence pushing off."
Now the news going around has been that D'antoni was going to try to incorporate Gasol back into the starting lineup, but as per D'antoni that's not the case, not yet anyway
D'antoni: "I want to "eventually" work him back into the starting lineup now that everyone especially Dwight is healthy. I'm not going to do it right away, but eventually I'd like to."
But he did make it clear why he intends to start Gasol in the playoffs, what's the reason why?
D'antoni: "Because we'll need him comfortable if we want to do some damage in the playoffs."
And if there is one thing Gasol was not comfortable with, it was coming off the bench. It seems catering to the Power Forward in order to get his best in the playoffs seems to be the direction D'antoni wants to go, rather than forcing him off the bench and worrying about anymore "quotes" from Gasol about it. Such distractions is the last thing this team needs.
However D'antoni did make one thing clear in practice, that this will be Gasol's last chance to make it work with Dwight as a starter, as he has thrown Gasol every bone for when he starts him again.
D'antoni: "A lot of decisions were made when Dwight wasn't healthy, and when Nash wasn't healthy or when guys were banged up, or even when Gasol wasn't healthy. But when you got Dwight healthy and you've got Nash healthy and when Kobe's healthy and Gasol's healthy, he(Gasol) is way too good, Nash is way too good and Dwight is way too good for it not to work.
Apparently D'antoni is attributing a lot of the early season problems with the lineups with Gasol, Nash and Dwight's health and feels with everyone in the lineup healthy that there's no reason the lineup won't work.
But there were obvious and apparent problems with the 4 and 5 of Dwight and Gasol, what is the main thing that must change if it will work between them in D'antoni's opinion.
Referring to the early problem of the season wherein Gasol would often leave Dwight alone when doubled and creep out to the three point line "after" clogging the lane up prior which allowed the double team to come.
D'antoni acknowledged this and said Gasol was "too good of a player to not 'figure it out.' "
It is obvious that Gasol and Dwight wanted to play the post, yet often when D'antoni would run double posts, Gasol would oft try to take dominant position even when Dwight had the ball, this caused Dwight to get double teamed very easily, and Gasol's response, was simply backing away.
This is one of the reasons D'antoni sat Pau aside from his inefficiency on defense, and why he is also skeptical towards starting him again but is willing to throw him a bone because of 'injuries' to team mates and himself.
However D'antoni did make it clear if Gasol doesn't figure it out he may have to change his mind come playoff time if it takes "too long".
D'antoni: "It's a real double edged sword, and I don't have time to 'experiment' because in the playoffs I don't want to be eliminated before I go 'well that didn't work.'."
Steve Nash also echo'd his sentiments when it came to starting the seven footer at least right away and even seems to be a little done 'experimenting' as well.
Steve Nash: "It's obvious we need him(Gasol) but we don't have time to wait on him and go through a week of bad performances and losses for him to get back into it."
Because of this Nash is behind Gasol coming off the bench as is his coach, at least at the start of the comeback.
Ultimately the ball is in Gasol's court.
He has a coach that says that "spacing" is what needs to change between Gasol and Howard but has also been critical that Gasol is a smart enough player to have figured that out, which is why he pulled him for messing up spacing and "not working together" with Dwight.
But he has given the Spaniard one FINAL benefit of the doubt and it will be Gasol's last, because if Gasol is still struggling to make it work with Dwight entering the playoffs, Neither D'antoni, or Nash for that matter will have a problen with him being back on the bench.
It's up to Gasol to prove he belongs to start again, it always has been.