Pau Gasol: Everything you always wanted to know about hamstrings*... *But were afraid to ask
It was Wednesday's big news from El Segundo, more so than the presence on the practice court of Matt Lauer. No disrespect intended, but the big Spaniard's balky right hammy it a lot higher on the pecking order for Lakers fans than anything coming up on the Today Show.
First, the video:
So there you have it- Pau Gasol, rocking the elliptical machine when the media was let in- will be on the treadmill Thursday, and if he recovers well, Friday. From there, it's a question of getting back on the practice court, playing at full speed and recovering well. For multiple practices, I would think. Looking at the schedule, that takes him into next week at the earliest.
After the big, TV camera-laden throng dispersed, Gasol answered a few questions for us print/web types, addressing first the comment from the video that he had "skipped a few steps" in the initial stages of his rehab. The full transcript is below.
Q: You said before that you might have skipped a few steps in coming back?
"It's all very relative. Because once you start feeling well, you want to do more, so you yourself put yourself in a position where you think you're okay, but there's really no way to find out. Because if the muscle is feeling great, then you're not skipping anything. You're doing just fine, and you're doing the right thing. I think we've been doing the right thing by testing it out. Maybe we should have waited a little more to test it, but there was no way to find out if you didn't put yourself through the test. So that's why I say it's all relative."
Q: So it came from you wanting to come back and test it, rather than anyone pushing you?
"No, no, no. They didn't push or anything. Obviously everyone wants me to be healthy, everyone wants me to be out there, but the main thing is (playing) healthy, especially at this early stage of the season. I never felt pushed or anything. We didn't skip steps intentionally so I would be out there (faster). We did more or less what my body was telling me at the time, but there was no way to find out if things were going to be okay if I didn't put myself through certain exercises and a certain amount of work."
It's worth noting that Pau was emphatic regarding his treatment. While certainly disappointed that the leg hasn't healed faster, there was no anger or disappointment directed at the coaching and training staffs.
Q: So you have no regrets about the process then so far?
"That's what's so relative. It's (always) so easy to say and have an opinion after the fact, but it's harder to go through it on a daily basis. It's been hard for me, and right now I'm just trying to be maybe a little extra patient, because I definitely don't want to take any more steps backwards, or take any chances."
Q: Have you been able to put yourself in the state of mind that this could be good for you, because you'll get some rest that could be valuable later?
"I think every negative thing pretty much has its positive sides, and I hope that that's one of them (in) the whole process. I just can't wait for the day that I can see myself out there and playing again, probably struggling the first couple of days because of the conditioning and being out for this amount of time. But it's definitely something I want to go through."
Q: Do you wish you had taken more time off in camp?
"I don't know. Again, it's relative. It's just hard to know when and why and if there's a bigger chance (of injury), if there's a lower chance (of injury) if... there's always a lot of "ifs." I felt like I was in really good shape when I came to training camp. A little bit fatigued, probably more mentally than physically, but again, it's relative. You don't know if it was an isolated play where anyone could have gotten hurt by it or if it was because of something else."
Here I agree with Pau's basic point. Simply stating "Gasol played too much ball, and that's why he got hurt" isn't responsible. Could the heavy workload have been a factor? Absolutely. But at the same time, it may have happened anyway. The hamstring pull is not exactly the Brazilian sideneck turtle of the NBA's injury list, all endangered and whatnot. It's also possible that the pull could have been worse if muscles accustomed to consistent physical activity went cold for a bit, then cranked back up to NBA speed.
It's simply impossible to say. If Gasol was 35 years old, it might be different, but he's in his prime.
Still, rest is on his radar. Gasol said he may not play in the World Championships this summer, and at one point considered taking last summer off, in the end motivated to participate in with Spain in the European Championships first by a desire to help his country secure a gold in that event (something I believe they missed out on before) and second by finishing last season feeling good physically, without any nagging problems.
This summer, though, could be a candidate for rest. "It gets to a point in your career that you have to make decisions like that and be smart about what you do, so I can take advantage also of what we have right here, of winning championships," he said.
The 2012 Olympics are still in his plans.
Bottom line: Thursday and Friday nights against the Suns and Nuggets respectively are out, and Sunday against Houston is a serious longshot. My guess- please note the normal caveats that it is, in fact, my guess and not based on information provided by the team, is he doesn't play until a week from Sunday against the Thunder at Staples at the earliest. It could be a little longer (if Gasol's recovery lasted through the end of the month I wouldn't be shocked), it could be shorter. Hamstrings, as we've noted, are very difficult to predict, and enjoy timetables like Mitchell's rainforest snail enjoys deforestation.
Phil Jackson intimated today that the team could be without Pau until Christmas... though he has a well earned reputation for screwing with people on all sorts of levels when it comes to injuries. But that only reinforces the point. The injury is tough to predict.
It would be very easy to push too fast and short circuit the healing process. The Lakers and Gasol have already been bitten by that bug, and rather than risk having to again hit the reset button on Pau's rehab, I think they'll be very careful going forward.