Pau Gasol still remained in jovial spirits despite the news surrounding his return.

The additional pain Gasol sensed in his right foot after playing a game of two-on-two Saturday will keep him sidelined when the Lakers play tonight in Phoenix, a benchmark the Lakers believed only days ago could happen. The Lakers then play Friday against Washington, leaving Gasol three more days to recover and possibly get in a practice.

"I don't want to put any date," Gasol said, "so there are no disappointments or surprises."

He hardly sounded upset about his delayed return after spending Sunday morning with foot specialist Kenneth Jung talking about his progress.

"It was to be expected," said Gasol, who also has fought a cold circulating within the team in the past week. "As you raise the intensity in the amount of load you put on the foot, it's going to create a little soreness."

Gasol, who has missed 19 games with his latest injury, will start in place of Earl Clark once his conditioning returns to normal. D'Antoni initially defended Gasol's bench role six games before his injury by arguing "we got to go small."

What changed D'Antoni's sentiments?

"Pau went up to another level with his play," D'Antoni said. "As you get to the playoffs, experience and being able to perform under certain conditions is a big factor.

"And he's more comfortable starting."

Gasol has averaged a career-low 13.4 points on 45.3 percent shooting.