EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Pau Gasol and his Lakers teammates enter the final night of the NBA regular season uncertain if they will live to see another day|
Pau Gasol is the only European player in the NBA who will not know whether he can go ahead and make plans for an early holiday before Wednesday night, the final day of action in the regular season.
The Spanish superstar will try to help the Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Houston Rockets at home on Wednesday, in their effort to clinch a play-off spot in the western conference and prolong their season.
Should the Lakers win, they will actually grab seventh place, ahead of the Rockets; if they fall however and the Utah Jazz win, Gasol and his Los Angeles team-mates will, reluctantly, become eligible to take that early holiday.
Many others, ranging from Dirk Nowitzki, who will not lead the Dallas Mavericks in a play-off series for the first time in 12 years, to the five-strong European contingent of the Minnesota Timberwolves, will play on Wednesday their last competitive game until they join their respective national teams at EuroBasket 2013, or until the start of the new season.
No matter whether Utah make the play-offs or not on Wednesday, Enes Kanter's season is already over.
The Turkish center of the Jazz underwent surgery last Wednesday to re-attach ligaments in his dislocated left shoulder.
Although a timetable for his return is not yet set, it will not take place before July, at best, putting in serious doubt his participation at the EuroBasket.
Kanter had the operation in the same city and on the same day that Jonas Valanciunas exited United Arena, home of the Chicago Bulls, on a stretcher and wearing a neck brace.
Valanciunas' head collided with the shoulder of his Toronto Raptors team-mate Rudy Gay just seconds before the end of the game against the Bulls and the Lithuanian NBA rookie was transferred to hospital and was submitted to checks for concussion and head injuries.
The 21-year-old center however returned to action on Tuesday, in the Raptors' 113-96 away win at the Atlanta Hawks, and contributed 13 points and eight rebounds.
|Boris Diaw is currently injured but may return for the Spurs during the play-offs|
Toronto might be out of the race for the play-offs, but Valanciunas will at least have the satisfaction of seeing out his rookie season by playing in the final game, unlike his team-mates Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza.
Both his fellow Lithuanian and the Italian center have been sidelined since the winter and their return to a basketball court could take place in Slovenia, during EuroBasket 2013.
Other European players that will not take to a court in the USA on the final day of the 2012/13 NBA Regular Season are Georgia's Zaza Pachulia, Italy's Danilo Gallinari, Poland's Marcin Gortat and France's, Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum.
The two Frenchmen are the ones with the lighter injuries.
Batum did not play in the Portland Trail Blazers loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday and will also sit out the season finale against the Golden State Warriors, to rest his right shoulder.
Unlike in 2009 though, when the small forward underwent surgery on his labrum, this time his condition is not serious.
"He'll be healthy soon," his agents Bouna Ndiaye told US website csnnw.com.
"He just needs to get some rest; the good news is there is no surgery needed."
Diaw meanwhile underwent surgery to remove a cyst from his lumbar spine and will be sidelined for three to four weeks.
With the San Antonio Spurs expected to make a deep play-off run however, the French national team captain could be back in action before the end of the season for his team.
Pachulia's Atlanta Hawks have also qualified for the play-offs but the Georgian center, who underwent surgery on 3 April, will not only miss out on the NBA post-season but most likely also on the EuroBasket, since his rehabilitation schedule runs well into August.
Gallinari of the Denver Nuggets on the other hand has no chance of helping Italy in the showcase European event in September, as he tore his ACL on 5 April and will not be back on a basketball court before the start of the new NBA season, at best.
Gortat meanwhile suffered a foot injury in early March that is not serious to the same extent as those of either Pachulia or Gallinari, but it was disappointing in that it brought to an end a 182-game long streak of uninterrupted appearances with the Phoenix Suns, that had started in December 2010.