When Memphis Grizzlies' center Marc Gasol went down with a sprained MCL back in late November, it seemed like the team was going to be without their big man for a long time. This likely meant they'd be without a playoff appearance for the first time since 2010. Gasol missing a couple of months with the knee injury, then working his way back to full strength was supposed to mean the Grizzlies' season was effectively over.
That may not be the case though. The Grizzlies have hung around the playoff race (17-19, four games out of the 8-seed) in Gasol's absence and could be getting the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year back in games pretty soon. Gasol is back to full practices with his teammates. He still hasn't set a return date but he's pretty close to being back on the court.
Marc Gasol says he'll go through contact practice today but center won't set target date for his return— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) January 13, 2014
Gasol: 'We haven't done anything where I said my knee hurts. It feels good. The timing is good.' pic.twitter.com/rUpGUbAgvE— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) January 13, 2014
Since playing just 10 minutes on November 22 when the Grizzlies lost to the San Antonio Spurs, Gasol has missed 23 games. It's probable he'll miss a few more before he returns to action. During those 23 games, the Grizzlies have posted a record of 10-13. Considering they lost their best player in Gasol during that time, that's a pretty successful stretch of basketball without him.
While they still have to get him back and get him to full strength, the Grizzlies have treaded water long enough to still be within striking distance of the playoffs at this time. Gasol was averaging 16.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in 34 minutes before the knee injury. The points and assists averages are career highs. Memphis was 7-5 before the game in which he went down with the injury.