(Reuters) - The Los Angeles Lakers will once again be without injured forward Pau Gasol when they try to climb back to the .500 mark against the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
The Spaniard will miss his third straight game due to tendinitis in both knees and Antawn Jamison is expected to start in his absence, having scored 15 points as Gasol’s replacement in each of the previous two games.
“Tonight we’re playing the Thunder of @sergeibaka9! My knees are improving but I still won’t be able to be out there with my team,” Gasol tweeted after the Lakers shoot around on Friday.
The Lakers certainly face an uphill task in Oklahoma City where they take on the Western Conference-leading Thunder (15-4)who are seeking their seventh consecutive win.
Gasol is averaging a National Basketball Association career low in points with 12.6 per game while the Lakers have slipped to 9-10 for the season after starting out with lofty expectations.
Despite adding six-time All-Star Dwight Howard and twice former Most Valuable Player Steve Nash in the off-season to a strong line-up headed by five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have failed to fire consistently.
Former head coach Mike Brown and his Princeton offense have been replaced by Mike D‘Antoni and his promise of “Showtime-type basketball” but the injury-hit team has not yet gelled under its new structure.
Nash played just two games this season before being sidelined indefinitely with a small fracture in his right leg and fellow guard Steve Blake is out for six-to-eight weeks with a torn abdominal muscle.
The ever-inspirational Bryant is averaging a league-best 28 points per game for Los Angeles and he become the youngest player to score 30,000 career points during his team’s 103-87 road win against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday.
But the Lakers could certainly do with four-time All-Star Gasol regaining both form and fitness if they are to turn what has been a surprisingly disappointing season, so far, around.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue