Gasol to Make Debut?

After a tumultuous offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers surprisingly emerged as one of the top teams in the competitive Western Conference in the season's first three months.

Now that they've landed a former All-Star in a blockbuster trade, the Lakers probably aren't going anywhere.

Pau Gasol is expected to make his Lakers debut Tuesday when the club visits the New Jersey Nets in the fourth game of its season-high nine-game road trip.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Los Angeles –5.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 203.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 91% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles –5.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Los Angeles (30-16) acquired Gasol from Memphis on Friday in a deal that sent underachieving center Kwame Brown, rookie guard Javaris Crittenton and draft picks to the Grizzlies.

He could have started Los Angeles' 103-91 win at Washington on Sunday, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson opted to give Gasol some additional rest. The 7-foot Spaniard missed three of his last four games with Memphis due to a sore back, and still hadn't practiced with his new team.

"We want him to practice first. He traveled back and forth across the country, up all night, short hours of sleep. This isn't a fair situation for him," Jackson said before Sunday's game. "We'll practice (Monday) and see how he feels. Play with the guys before we have him going into an NBA game with the 'Showtime' thing."

Gasol, the 2002 Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in 2006, is averaging 18.9 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 50.1 percent from the field and a career-best 81.9 percent from the free-throw line.

Despite Gasol's performance, the Grizzlies appear headed to their second straight last-place finish in the Southwest and had failed to win a playoff game in three postseason appearances from 2004-06, prompting speculation about Gasol's unhappiness with the situation in Memphis. The Lakers, meanwhile, have one of the best records in the West despite a chaotic offseason that was highlighted by Kobe Bryant's demand to be traded to a contender.

With Gasol and Bryant paired in Los Angeles, it seems like both stars will get what they want.

"The pressure of winning and being one of the favorites, I think, is what you want to be involved in," Gasol said Sunday. "That's the kind of pressure I've been missing being in the NBA. I love that."

The Lakers could use Gasol's inside presence with center Andrew Bynum expected to be sidelined at least another six weeks with a knee injury. Without Bynum, the Lakers have gone 5-5, including 2-1 on their current road trip, which ends Feb. 13 at Minnesota.

Los Angeles will try to earn a split in the season series with New Jersey (20-27), which won the first meeting 102-100 in Los Angeles on Nov. 25 behind 27 points from Richard Jefferson.

The Nets suffered a season-high nine-game losing streak from Jan. 11-27, but have fared better in their last three games. After winning back-to-back contests, though, New Jersey lost 104-92 at Atlanta on Saturday despite shooting 51.4 percent for its third-best shooting performance.

The Nets gave up 58 points in the paint - eight shy of their season high, also set by Atlanta.

"It was our lack of effort that caused us to lose tonight," said Nets guard Vince Carter, who had 14 points and a season-high 10 assists. "When you allow a team to score 50-plus points in the paint, it's going to be difficult to win."

Gasol is averaging 20.7 points and shooting 55.6 percent in his last three games against New Jersey.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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