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Gasol still awaits season's greeting NBA: Lakers' Jackson remarks forward could be out until Christmas with injured hamstring.

Byline: Ramona Shelburne and Elliott Teaford, Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but already the countdown to Christmas has begun.

This year, the Christmas season might mark the season debut of a certain 7-foot Spaniard to the Lakers' lineup.

That's right, Christmas.

After giving daily updates and forecasts about when All-Star forward Pau Gasol and his stubborn right hamstring might finally be fit enough to play, Lakers coach Phil Jackson teasingly said Wednesday that Gasol might not play until Christmas.

Just how much Jackson might've been teasing - or needling Gasol - with that comment is unclear. For his part, the Spaniard said he wanted to have at least two days of pain-free running on a treadmill and at least a couple of pain-free practices before returning to action, which roughly translates to at least another 1-2 weeks out of action.

"It is mysterious, no doubt about it," Jackson said.

Asked if he had any sense how long Gasol would be out, Jackson wryly noted, "We're starting to look toward Christmas. Some time out there. ... You know how we are. We always say, 'Let's not put anything out there that's futuristic. We'll just get disappointed.' He's very disappointed right now."

Why in particular has Gasol's hamstring injury been so uncooperative and mysterious?

"With most hamstrings you see bleeding or bruises or holes in the hamstring," Jackson said. "His has been one of those things that wasn't a big concern to us, but has turned into a month-long injury."

As Jackson made his comments, Gasol was chatting nearby, but out of earshot, cooling down after an intense workout on an elliptical machine.

Originally, the Lakers had hoped Gasol could return to the lineup last weekend, but he suffered a setback last Friday and has essentially started over with a more cautious approach.

"You can't skip steps, like I think I might have during the first part of the injury," he said. "You just can't assume the muscle is going to respond well because it's feeling well during certain things. It's a tricky injury.

"I don't think there's a risk you can tear it up, but you can reinjure it and it can become an issue for the whole year."

Asked if he ever felt pressured by Jackson or the Lakers to come back sooner than he felt ready, Gasol shook his head.

"They didn't push or anything," he said. "Obviously everybody wants me to be healthy, and everybody wants me to be out there, but the main thing is healthy, especially in this early stage of the season.

"I never felt pushed or anything. We didn't skip steps intentionally. We did more or less what my body was telling me at the time.

"But right now, now I'm trying to be, maybe a little extra patient, because I definitely don't want to take any steps backwards and take any chances."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 12, 2009
Words:480
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