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NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Pau Gasol Returning to Los Angeles Lakers’ Lineup on New Year’s Eve vs. Bucks

Pau Gasol illness

Jennifer Stewart – USA Today Sports Images

The dysfunction of the Los Angeles Lakers has only seemed to compound as the 2013-14 NBA season has worn on. The Kobe Bryant saga, an array of injuries to a wide variety of players, and the general personalities on this team have all stolen headlines at one time or another this season. Lately, though, it’s been Pau Gasol that has been under the microscope in L.A.

Gasol has sat out the past two games for the Lakers as the team’s losing streak has now crept up to a daunting five games heading into a New Year’s Eve matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. Gasol has been dealing with he and the team are calling a respiratory infection, which the big man has said has affected his conditioning and ability to effectively get up and down the floor.

According to reports from multiple outlets, Gasol will be back in the lineup for Tuesday’s game with the Bucks and ready to go, though there are still some lingering effects from his illness. However, it’s good that he’s returning now considering all of the flack that he’s been given over the last week.

When Gasol missed Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, a 111-104 loss for the Lakers, he started to get absolutely grilled. People began talking about how he could have played through the illness and how Gasol was displaying a lack of heart that could very well be near the root of the Lakers’ problems this season beyond the injuries. The criticisms of Gasol were pretty widespread and, for lack of a better word, rather venomous.

There’s clearly a lot going wrong with this Lakers team that seems to be refusing to tank for reasons that I’m not sure of. However, if they’re not going to tank, Gasol has to either start playing his tail off and proving these criticisms wrong, or look to be traded—which is something that has also been discussed. Even if he’s looking to get traded, though, he should probably still look to bust his tail to raise his value in a potential trade so that a contender would want to fork over what it takes to land the big Spaniard. Regardless of his intentions, though, it’s intriguing to see how he’ll react to this recent kerfuffle for him and L.A.

Cody Williams is a Senior Writer with Rant Sports. Follow Cody on Twitter @TheSizzle20, add him on Google and like his Facebook page.