- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry said that center Robin Lopez will play tonight in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers and will "more than likely" start.
Lopez has been out since April 26 with a bulging disk in his back, but the extended layoff between the Western Conference semifinals and finals has given him enough time to scrimmage with the team and feel confident enough to play.
"He doesn't have any restrictions on how many minutes he can play, it's just up to him how long he can go," Gentry said after the Suns' shootaround at Staples Center.
Lopez said he's been improving every day, but isn't sure how sharp he'll be because of the long layoff.
"If I can't exactly be as sharp as I was before the injury, I'm hoping I'm going to be able to make that up with a lot of energy out there," he said.
"They've got a lot of size so I just want to be a big body out there. I want to be able to alter shots and block shots."
The second-year, 7-foot center blossomed in 31 games as a starter this season, averaging 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. In 20 games coming off the bench, he averaged just 4.0 points and 2.8 rebounds.
Jarron Collins has been starting at center while Lopez has been out.
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss