Marc Gasol went from being out indefinitely to being back in the lineup for the Memphis Grizzlies after only missing two games. He is getting treatment and is playing through an abdominal tear, but is that a smart move?
The Grizzlies managed to battle back from a 28-point halftime deficit, outscoring the New York Knicks 60-39 in the second half, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. J.R. Smith continued his hot streak, torching Memphis for 35 points.
Gasol was back in the middle and played just under 36 minutes. His presence was obviously felt, but he wasn’t quite himself, contributing with just 13 points and five rebounds on the night.
He aggravated his abdominal tear a couple of games ago, but promised that he would be back in time for the playoffs. Gasol has also said that he does not mind playing through pain if necessary, but it is a dangerous game to play, as abdominal tears are no joke. A wrong turn here or a bad jump there and you can get yourself sidelined for a longer period of time. Gasol is not particularly athletic and does not really jump a lot, which in this case can help him protect his health.
The reason why Gasol was rushed back is crystal clear — Memphis is losing ground in the Western Conference playoff race. They are now one game behind the fourth seed, and in turn the elusive first round homecourt advantage. Grizzlies are still hopeful to make a playoff run, but if they finish fifth in the West and take on the Denver Nuggets in the first round, they are most likely looking at an early exit. Denver is one of the best teams in the league on their home floor, boasting a 32-3 record at Pepsi Center this season.
On the other hand, Denver actually has a losing record on the road. For Memphis, the playoffs practically start right now, because the seeding could very well determine the outcome of their postseason run.
Gasol might not be completely healthy, but he rarely does anything to hurt his team. If he is able to, he has to be out there for the Grizzlies.
Vytis is an NBA columnist for RantSports. You can follow him on Twitter here: @VytisLasaitis