Gasol ready to return vs. Bulls

Updated: November 18, 2009, 11:29 PM ET
Reuters

Gasol

Gasol

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol is set to make his long-awaited return to the court on Thursday when the defending NBA champions host the Chicago Bulls.

Having missed the team's first 11 games because of a hamstring ailment, the Spaniard trained on Wednesday and declared himself fit for his first regular-season game, the Lakers team website said.

"I felt great today and don't see any reason I shouldn't be able to play [Thursday]," Gasol said. "I think the muscle is healed."

After making it through a week of workouts without pain, Gasol is likely to be slotted straight into the Los Angeles starting lineup.

"We want to go to that, the sooner we get to it the better," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "His conditioning will dictate [his playing time]."

Gasol has been a key cog in the Lakers attack, partnering with Kobe Bryant to form a dynamic scoring duo. Gasol averaged 18.9 points per game and 9.6 rebounds while only missing one game during the 2008-2009 season.