Pau Gasol playing more minutes

11/13/2010 - NBA Pau Gasol Los Angeles Lakers + more

Two of the biggest stars in the NBA played 44 minutes in losing efforts Thursday night.

In the latest mini-controversy to come out of Miami, LeBron James had a problem with it.

"For myself, 44 minutes is too much," James told reporters after the Heat's 112-107 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday. "I think Coach Spo knows that. Forty minutes for D-Wade is too much. We have to have as much energy as we can to finish games out."

The other guy logging heavy minutes?

That would be Lakers center Pau Gasol, who played a season-high 44 minutes in the Lakers' 118-112 loss to the Denver Nuggets and has been logging a team-high 38 and a half minutes this season with Andrew Bynum recovering from knee surgery and back-up Theo Ratliff nursing knee tendinitis.

Asked if 44 minutes was too much for him after practice on Saturday, Gasol shrugged.

"No, not a chance. I enjoy playing," he said. "Forty-four is 44. Some nights those 44 are going to feel a lot more than others, depending on the opponent. But I'm fine playing the way I'm playing right now. It's not ideal, at this point in the year, but these are the circumstances that we're in."

Now, before you print this article out and post it on the bulletin board in the Heat locker room, it should be noted that Gasol was unaware James had complained about his playing time the other night.

"You know who said that right?" a reporter asked Gasol.

"No, who?" he asked.

"LeBron, after the game against Boston the other night," he was told.

"Really?" Gasol said. "Oh cool. Well, that's up to him. If he doesn't want to play 44, whatever."

Meanwhile Bynum, the guy whose injury is compelling Gasol to play so much in the early part of this year, did some light shooting with assistant Craig Hodges and core work strength trainer Alex McKechnie on Saturday, but offered no update on his condition.

Said Lakers coach Phil Jackson: "He shot with Craig a little bit. He's shot before. But he's not on the court with us yet doing warm up drills. I expect that in a week or so -- not next week because we're on the road a lot -- but after that he'll be able to do some of the warm-up and the activity drills."

In other words, the original target of a Thanksgiving return is looking fuzzy.

Is Gasol frustrated? No.

Gasol said he can relate to Bynum's predicament because of his own frustrating experience with a torn hamstring at the start of last season.

"Hopefully he'll heal fast, but it's bad to rush back from an injury because you can re-hurt yourself and you can be out longer, and I know that," Gasol said.

"I don't want him to rush, I want him to get healthy, whenever that is, we'll be all happy about it. Probably one of the first ones will be me.

"Obviously a hamstring tear is a different level than a knee injury. But the feeling of wanting to be there and the whole team wanting you to be there, but knowing you're not there quite yet, it's tough. You have to go through it. You have to be patient and you have to do what the training staff tells you what to do and listen to the doctors.

"I'd guess he's eager to play. But I'm sure he's also concerned with his knee because of what he's been through in his young career. He has to be cautious about it. He can't overlook his situation."

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.