The Los Angeles Lakers can cross one name off their ever-growing list of injured players. Center Pau Gasol participated in full contact drills at practice Thursday and plans to play Friday when the team hosts the Clippers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Gasol has missed the previous six games with a strained left hamstring after missing the first 11 games of the season with the same injury. Even without the seven-footer’s presence in the lineup, the Lakers started the season on a tear, winning seven of their first eight and going 8-3 overall before Gasol returned on Nov. 19. The defending NBA champions went just 3-3 during the most recent stretch without Gasol.
The center’s return is a welcome sign to his teammate Kobe Bryant. Bryant has played in all 39 of his team’s game this season, but was limited to just 10 points on Wednesday against the Mavericks. Bryant is nursing a sore back that kept him out of the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 20-point loss to the Spurs.
With Gasol on the court, the Lakers boast a starting lineup with two double-double threats in Gasol (16.8 points, 11.5 rebounds) and fellow seven-footer Andrew Bynum (15.6 points, 8.5 rebounds).