After missing nine games with sprained ankle, Gasol returns to Lakers

The sprained left ankle is not 100 percent healed, but the Los Angeles Lakers will take whatever Pau Gasol can provide at center.

Gasol, who missed nine games because of the injury, returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night to play against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.

Gasol scored 10 points in the Lakers' 104-91 win over Portland, playing nearly 32 minutes with six rebounds and seven assists.

Gasol had played in a brief scrimmage Saturday, and participated in a full practice Tuesday, reporting progress with each workout.

"That's the main question, right?" Gasol said in The Los Angeles Times. "If nothing crazy happens and the ankle responds well to the work today, I think it's a pretty good guess that I'll be out there."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Gasol would start on Wednesday, but the playing time would be adjusted depending on how the ankle reacted.

"He'll probably have swelling for the next six weeks," Jackson said, according to The Times. "Anybody who's had a severely sprained ankle knows that it just goes on and on. Eventually it subsides, but it's still going to be an issue for a while."

Gasol, averaging 18.9 points and 8.5 rebounds, had been filling in for Andrew Bynum, who has been out with an injured knee since January. The Lakers are 15-4 with Gasol in the lineup, and 5-4 without him.

"Can't wait to work him back in the mix and get him out on the floor," Kobe Bryant said in The Times.

Bynum, meanwhile, has been doing some drills on his own, but has not practiced with the team. Bynum likely will join the Lakers for the upcoming road trip to Sacramento and Portland to get him back into a routine, and, as Jackson said jokingly in The Times, "so he can hang out a little bit with his teammates and remember their names."