Pau Gasol expected back Thursday

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol went through shooting drills and a three-on-three game Wednesday at practice and expects to play Thursday against the Miami Heat.

Gasol, who has missed the past five games because of lingering effects from a concussion he suffered Jan. 6 against the Denver Nuggets, said he felt good after practice and expected to be cleared by doctors Thursday morning.

"I feel better and tomorrow I'll be a go," Gasol said. "I guess I have to ease my way back into it because this is the first day I've actually got some good work done on the court. After a week and a half of inactivity, your body needs a certain amount of time to get back out there and perform at your best."

The only question is whether Gasol will start or come off the bench. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said Tuesday night that Gasol would start when he returned, but Gasol said he and D'Antoni had talked about the possibility of coming off the bench as the star forward eases himself back into the lineup.

"We're talking about it," Gasol said of the possibility of coming off the bench. "We're talking about it with the head coach and the head trainer. I would always like to start and play 40 minutes, but that's probably not the best thing right now."

With Gasol out, Earl Clark has started the past three games, and in the past five games he has played more than 21 minutes per game. But Clark sat out practice Wednesday with flu-like symptoms. D'Antoni said he expects Clark to play Thursday.

The Lakers have won their past two games since Dwight Howard returned from a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Gasol believes the Lakers are doing a better job of moving the ball with Steve Nash back on the court after the point guard missed 24 games with a small fracture in his lower-left leg.

"We share the ball," Gasol said. "Steve has definitely done a good job setting the tone. I think Kobe is finding Dwight a lot more and being unselfish. They set the tone. The main players have to set the tone for the rest of the guys and it gets contagious."

The Lakers got some more good news on the injury front Wednesday as Steve Blake went through shooting drills and played in the same three-on-three game as Gasol. It was the first time Blake had been involved in any type of game since he was sidelined Nov. 11 with an abdomen injury. Blake underwent surgery in early December to repair a torn abdominal muscle and was expected to be sidelined a minimum of six to eight weeks after the procedure.

Blake is expected to meet with doctors on Thursday and said there is no timetable for his return, but he hopes to be back by the end of the month if there are no setbacks.

"I missed it; that's for sure," Blake said. "It was fun to play. I just got to play through the pain I'm having, but I'm back, so that feels good. I'm still day-to-day but I feel a little more confident in myself. I haven't played like that in a long time so that always feels good."