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Pau Gasol returns to Lakers lineup Monday, starts next to Shawne Williams

Dec 23, 2013, 3:03 PM EDT

Minnesota Timberwolves  v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

At this point any time the Lakers get a player back from injury it’s a cause for celebration.

So throw a party on Monday because the Lakers’ get Pau Gasol back, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Gasol missed a game due to ongoing respiratory issues, something he has battled all season and tried to play through.

He will start on the road against the Suns next to Shawne Williams as the Lakers are moving Jordan Hill back to the bench, a move that will not sit well with Lakers fans. It’s likely a move about matching up with the smaller Suns lineups.

Gasol is averaging 15 points and 9.7 rebounds a game, but he has struggled to fit in with the Mike D’Antoni offensive system for two seasons now. It’s just an uncomfortable marriage.

Which is one reason you can expect a whole lot of Pau Gasol trade rumors as we head toward the trade deadline — and don’t be surprised if those have some impact on Gasol’s play. Also, don’t expect him to get moved — the value of the expiring contract has gone down around the league, and Gasol’s is massive at $19.3 million. Plus the Lakers don’t want take on any long-term contracts back, they want they cap space, which really limits the potential trade partners.

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Gasol can still play, but teams that have interest are more likely to wait until he is a free agent this summer rather than give up anything to get him now. Don’t expect the Lakers to retain him after this season (despite what is said right now), he’s going to command more than they are willing to spend.

While we’re at it, expect a lot of Jordan Hill trade chatter — and that deal is far more likely.

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