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Gasol to come off bench in return vs. Heat

After missing the previous five games because of a concussion, Pau Gasol is set to play for the Lakers as they face the Miami Heat on Thursday night at Staples Center.

Gasol will come off the bench for the first time since the 2004-05 season and only the seventh time in 822 career NBA games. Earl Clark will make a fourth consecutive start in Gasol's place.

"It kind of makes sense the first game to come off the bench and ease back into it with this game because they weren't really expecting me to play tonight," Gasol said after the Lakers' shoot-around Thursday. "So maybe we would have been better basketball-wise for me to get conditioning drills, conditioning workouts and playing a little more before I get back, but I want to play, I want to be out there.”

Coach Mike D’Antoni said Gasol would move back into the starting lineup once his conditioning improves, likely Sunday against Toronto.

Still, there are other factors that contributed to Gasol coming off the bench.

"We've played a certain way for five games and you've got the defending champions coming in and they play smaller," D’Antoni said, "so it’s not something you want to force without knowing what the answer is. I would rather start off just looking at the team we've looked at the last two or three games and then have him. He'll be a big addition for us."

Asked about whether the Lakers would be better served by no longer playing him alongside center Dwight Howard so that they could feature one post player at all times, Gasol said, “I think that our effectiveness shouldn't be determined by whether we're both on the floor or not. I think we should be more effective when we're both on the floor. This is a guard-oriented offensive system so most of the time one big or two bigs are not getting the best out of it."

Gasol said he struggled with sensitivity to light, noise and headaches while he was out after suffering the concussion Jan. 6 against the Denver Nuggets. He said he attended the Lakers' last two home games to test his symptoms.

"The first game I struggled," Gasol said. "The second game it felt very close to normal, so tonight I would expect to be completely normal."

-Ben Bolch

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