Lakers Update: Marc Gasol ‘Few Steps’ Away From Returning After Extended Absence
Marc Gasol
Adam Pantozzi-NBAE

Los Angeles Lakers center Marc Gasol has missed their last six games — two before the All-Star break and four after — due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. While the Lakers and Gasol have given no reasons for his absence, him being away from the team for exactly 14 days could signal a positive test for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

As was the case with Dennis Schroder and Alex Caruso when they missed time due to the league’s pandemic protocols, fans will likely know more after Gasol has returned to action. For now, it remains unclear exactly when that will be, as the league has several phases to clear before being allowed to play again.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said that Gasol could not play, but was allowed to join the team on the bench for their game against the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night. “Marc [Gasol] is still in healthy and safety protocols in terms of not being cleared to play, but he is cleared from isolation quarantine and will be with our team tonight. But still has a few steps left before he can be cleared to play.”

Gasol will have been out over two weeks by the time he is cleared by the NBA. Because of this, Vogel said they will need to make a decision about giving him some extra time to regain his conditioning.

“It’s still a protocols thing,” Vogel said. “Once he clears that, we’ll make an evaluation as to whether he needs some time to get his legs back under him.”

Following the Hornets matchup, the Lakers play a string of relatively favorable games when it comes to centers. DeAndre Ayton is the only true high-quality center the Lakers face between now and March 28 when they face Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic.

L.A. will go up against the Philadelphia 76ers in that span, but Joel Embiid is not expected to be healthy by then. All of this may factor into how the Lakers treat Gasol as he comes back from a long absence.

Additionally, Damian Jones has filled in admirably and the Lakers have also been linked to centers on the buyout market such as Andre Drummond, so there’s no doubt the Lakers will give Gasol as much time as he needs to get healthy.

Vogel praises Montrezl Harrell stepping up in Gasol, Anthony Davis absences

While the Lakers two main big men have been out, it’s been Montrezl Harrell that has taken control of games in the paint.

Vogel spoke about his performances, speaking to how big he has been for L.A.

“He’s been invaluable,” Vogel noted. “He’s been a big part of our success this season, especially with Anthony [Davis] and Marc [Gasol] being out, we’ve leaned more heavily on him than we were earlier in the season.”

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