Pau Gasol comes off bench

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Pau Gasol returned to the court Thursday against the Miami Heat after missing five games because of a concussion.

Gasol came off the bench five minutes into the game.

"He hasn't practiced in a week and a half and he hasn't really had physical activity in a week and a half," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters at shootaround Thursday. "So, we're going to watch him tonight. He's going to be a little bit limited in what he does and then ease him back in."

Earl Clark staredt in Gasol's place. Clark has averaged 9.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 blocks in the past three games playing power forward with the first unit.

"I'm excited to play and be back on the floor after this process," Gasol said. "I've struggled with this concussion.

"It kind of makes sense this first game to come off the bench and ease back into it with this game. They weren't really expecting me to play tonight."

D'Antoni said the decision to bring Gasol in off the bench was a combination of conditioning concerns along with the fact Miami plays with a smaller starting lineup than most teams to accommodate its up-and-down style of play.

Gasol and D'Antoni have already spoken about the Spaniard returning to the starting lineup when the Lakers begin their three-game road trip Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.

"Sunday we'll re-evaluate everything and go back to normal, probably," D'Antoni said.

Gasol said he has fully recovered from the concussion he suffered Jan. 5 when the Denver Nuggets' JaVale McGee hit him in the face with an inadvertent elbow.

"I'm feeling well," Gasol said. "I'm feeling even better than (Wednesday) so it's good signs. We're on a good path and I'm clear to practice, clear to play."

Gasol passed his final evaluation by a Lakers team neurologist Thursday morning.

One silver lining for the 12-year veteran being out with the concussion for so long was that it allowed Gasol's body to rest after he had been playing through tendinitis in both of his knees, plantar fasciitis in his right foot and bursitis in his right elbow this season.

"It's a win and lose or lose and win," Gasol said of missing time while the team was losing games, but getting healthier in the process. "I got a little bit of rest for that too."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.