Gasol (groin) out; three near return

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Man down... again! Just when the Los Angeles Lakers thought reinforcements were finally on the way with the imminent returns of Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar, another key player has gone down with an injury. This time it’s Pau Gasol, averaging 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in January, who is out for at least a week with a groin injury.

“Just another day here, I guess,” said Blake. “It’s tough. I was looking forward to getting out there with Pau again. He’s our go-to guy right now. So the rest of us have to make up for what he does. We’ll do it as a team.”

Blake and Nash are both hoping to play in Tuesday night’s game in Minnesota. Farmar is believed to be behind both of them in his return timetable. But all three were full participants in Sunday’s practice.

“Every day my arm is getting a little stronger,” said Blake, who has been out since Dec. 10 with a torn ligament in his right elbow. “It’s not completely where I want it to be. There’s still a little bit of pain in my elbow, but my strength is coming back.”

Blake said the primary issue is building back the strength in his arm, which was immobilized for over a month when he was first diagnosed with the injury. He did not have surgery to repair the elbow and doesn’t believe he will need to in the future if he’s able to build back up his strength without any setbacks.

The only time the elbow hurts him is on the follow through of his shot, but he’s learning to ignore that pain and push through it since it will eventually improve and it isn’t likely to get worse.

Playing on Tuesday is only a possibility at this point, however.

“It’s a possibility,” Blake said. “It’s a day-to-day thing for me. Hopefully tomorrow is another good practice and if I wake up Tuesday feeling pretty good, there’s a possibility I’ll play.”

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said that Nash was also trying to come back for Tuesday’s game. He’s been a full participant in two practices this week after working with his private trainer up in Vancouver while the Lakers were away on their annual Grammy road trip.

“He looks good and he feels good, so we’ll see,” D’Antoni said of Nash. “It’s 10 months that he hasn’t played so you know there’s got to be a lot of rust there. He’s just trying to get his legs. From what I’ve seen he’s not shooting the ball as well as usual because he doesn’t have his legs. But that’ll change.”

Asked about the stakes involved in Nash’s latest comeback attempt, D’Antoni acknowledged that the consequences could be serious if Nash is unable to sustain a level of play this time, but this was not the time to worry about it.

“He’s not getting any younger, that’s for sure,” D’Antoni said of the soon-to-be 40-year-old Nash. “That’s always a possibility at this age. But we’ll deal with that.”