He doesn’t know how long he’ll play or how much he can give, but Pau Gasol will suit up for the Bulls tomorrow in Game 6 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While his left hamstring has made enough progress for him to at least declare himself fit to play, it doesn’t mean Gasol will be back to the double-double machine he’s been for the entire year—but any little bit can help.
“At this time of the year, whatever a guy can give you, you’d like him to give it to you,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Obviously, he’s a very talented player. Hopefully he’ll be ready tomorrow. He’s a great rebounder. So that would be a big plus. Offensively, obviously he’s a hub on offense. You can throw the ball to him. You can pick and roll with him. So he would add a lot.”
There wasn’t a full practice to go through, just a film session and a walkthrough after the Game 5 loss to Cleveland at the Advocate Center, so he hasn’t been able to truly test his left hamstring—but after going through some exercises with the staff before Game 5, it didn’t tighten up on him in the time being.
“Just walked through stuff, but I was able to do some good running,” Gasol said. “I was able to do some shooting for the first time and move OK. So made some good progress today. No residual pain from yesterday. Making progress, but at the end of the day tomorrow is the game, and I’ll do everything I can to help the team."
The Bulls have sorely missed his scoring and his presence on the interior, especially when you factor in their sub-40 percent shooting nights in Games 4 and 5, the two games Gasol has missed as a whole.
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But facing elimination, the circumstances seemed to make the choice for him.
“I mean right now it’s win or go home,” Gasol said. “There’s nothing left but tomorrow’s game. What percentage I’ll be able to play? I don’t know, but whatever percentage I will be that’s what I’ll give.’’
There doesn’t appear to be much of a gameplan on minutes restrictions, just playing it by ear and how his body deals with going full speed. He hasn’t tried to jump yet, nor has he done anything explosive, but the Bulls will take whatever they can get from him and hope the adrenaline carries his body through the game.
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“We’ll go with how it goes and how it reacts. We talked about it with the training staff to probably it wouldn’t be wise to play the usual amount of minutes,” Gasol said. “To play the first 12 minutes like I usually do in the first quarter and the third. But we’ll go how it feels and how it reacts, and we’ll go from there. I’ll tell you right now, whatever I can do to help, whichever way I put myself out there to do that."
Perhaps an exercise bike to keep his body warm or some additional stretches will be done, but he doesn’t have a plan, just hoping his presence alone will give the Bulls a jolt.
“As much as I can, to the point that I'm helpful on the floor,” Gasol said. “If I can't be helpful and I'm hurting the team, then I'll make a decision. But hopefully, that won't happen.”