Wizards to play against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol in rematch with Lakers

March 22, 2013

Like this, only they’ll be wearing basketball uniforms. (Associated Press)

The Wizards won’t catch any breaks when they play the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at Staples Center. At a time when they are losing players, the Lakers will welcome back both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol from injuries.

Bryant has missed the past two games with a severely sprained left ankle and the flu and Gasol has been out the past 20 games with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.

Wizards point guard John Wall wouldn’t expect it to be any other way.

“They might bring the whole squad back. It’s nothing new,” Wall said with a grin. “Every time we go play a good team, somebody is always coming back. Chris Paul came back and then sat out the next two games after he played us. A lot of people respect us or don’t want to lose to us, so they try to get everybody to play.”

The last time the Wizards played in Los Angeles, Paul, the Clippers’ all-star point guard, returned after missing three games with a strained right patella and had 22 points with 11 assists in leading his team to a 94-87 win. Paul played the next game against Golden State but eventually missed the next nine games with the same injury.

Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said Gasol might actually start, giving the Lakers their ideal starting lineup of Bryant, Gasol, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. That group hasn’t opened a game since Jan. 20, when the Lakers lost, 108-103, in Toronto.

“I’m looking forward to it,” D’Antoni said. “That’s the lineup. If we’re going to do any damage, that’s what has to happen.”

Rookie Bradley Beal didn’t participate in the morning shootaround after spraining his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ 88-79 win on Wednesday in Phoenix. He will be listed as doubtful for Friday’s game.

Emeka Okafor, still recovering from the flu that forced him to miss his first game of the season against the Suns, will be a game-time decision and also watched the shootaround. A.J. Price will miss his sixth straight game with a sore right groin.

The Lakers have a 1½-game lead over Utah for the eighth seed in the Western Conference and defeated the Wizards, 102-96, on Dec. 14 at Verizon Center. But Wizards have been playing better basketball since Wall made his debut a month later and D’Antoni said his team will have to be prepared for a different team.

“Obviously, the speed of John Wall,” D’Antoni said, when asked about the toughest challenge in containing the Wizards. “Run back. Just make sure you guard him with five guys. … They’ve got a lot of guys that can score. [Martell] Webster has been playing really well for them. We have to play well or we’re not going to beat them.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · March 21, 2013

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