By Ben Eagle
Marc Gasol's absence proved to be short-lived. Hours after vowing to return to the lineup before the playoffs, Gasol did just that. The Grizzlies center will not only play Wednesday night against the Knicks, he'll start, according to coach Lionel Hollins.
Gasol, who was shut down and deemed out indefinitely on March 22, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal Wednesday that the injury is improving and any talk of him being shut down for the rest of the regular season is premature.
“We’re going to try to keep [treating it] and when it feels good and gets better, I’ll get out there. I don’t care if it hurts a little bit. I have no problem with that. We’re going with indefinite. But it’s going to go game-by-game, day-by-day.”
A leading Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Gasol was averaging 14.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1 steal in 35.2 minutes per game prior to the injury. He had also started all 68 games for Memphis at center before being shut down.
The Grizzlies sit No. 5 in the Western Conference with a 47-23 record and will certainly welcome Gasol back with open arms. With 12 games remaining in the regular season, Memphis is just one game behind the third-seeded Nuggets and a 1/2 game behind the Clippers for the fourth seed. With Gasol on the floor, Memphis’ offense is four points per 100 possessions better compared to when he’s on the bench; the team’s defense, which ranks No. 2 in the league in efficiency, is 6.6 points better with him on the court compared to when he’s on the bench.