Desperate times call for desperate measures.
No one team is experiencing “desperate times” more so than the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
After dropping yesterdays matinée game to the Toronto Raptors 108-103, the Lakers now find themselves six games below .500 with a record of 17-23, which is good enough for 12th in the Western Conference. They sit three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Gasol remained on the bench during yesterday’s game against the Raptors.
My job is to put the best team on the floor,” D’Antoni said after admitting that he had not yet decided if Gasol or Clark would start against the Raptors. “If I feel like (starting Gasol is) the best way to go, then we’ll go that way. If I don’t, it’s nothing personal. It’s just that I got to do what I think is right. I think every player has to accept what is right, whether they like it or not. So, that’s the bottom line.
“Now, does he deserve to start? Yeah, he does. He’s been here a long time and probably that will happen, but if it doesn’t, then you know what? You got to go on. You got to contribute. You got teammates to think about. You got the Lakers to think about. You got to do whatever is best for the Lakers. Whether we agree or not, then that’s something else, we can agree to disagree. My job is to try to get the best team on the floor all the time and make it work. That doesn’t mean I’m not including him. I just mean, that’s my job.” (ESPN.com)
In a rather obvious reaction, Pau is not at all happy with losing his spot in the starting line-up.
“I’ve never come off the bench in my career,” Gasol said. “(Thursday) was my first game off the bench with the Lakers, maybe a couple other games due to injuries, but that’s it. I’ve been a starter my entire career. I’ve been a star starter my entire career, so I want to continue to be a star starter.”
Pau has been with the team since the 2007-08 season. Up until Thursday’s game against Miami, Gasol had started 345 games for the Lakers, which is essentially every game he’s participated in. Since entering the league back in 2001-02, he’s started 815 of a possible 822 games, and that includes his stint with the Memphis Grizzlies.
His numbers this season have been very subpar compared to other years. Through 27 games, Gasol is averaging 12.6 points (down from 17.4) while shooting 43.2% from the field (down from 50.1%). He’s also grabbing 8.1 rebounds (down from 10.4) a game.
The question of whether or not the Lakers should attempt to deal Pau Gasol before the trade deadline has been brought up on numerous occasions over the past month or so. It appears that Gasol and Mike D’Antoni’s system aren’t a good mesh.
Even with his poor start, Pau is simply to talented a player to come off the bench for the remainder of the season. In fact, he’s probably good enough to be the number one option for about one-third of the league at the moment.
The frontcourt duo of Gasol and teammate Dwight Howard hasn’t worked up to this point. There simply isn’t enough basketball to go around for both players to effective. If Pau were to come off the bench, he could anchor a second-unit which is ranked 26th in the NBA (26.4 points per game).
Still, it looks like he won’t be completely comfortable with the decision the longer it’s instituted.
“I guess. There’s ways to work it out if it’s absolutely necessary or mandatory.”
Coach D’Antoni believes who starts shouldn’t matter.
“Starting does not matter. Starting does not matter, so, that’s kind of a moot point. Now, the last 10 minutes of the game or eight minutes of a game, that matters.”
FINAL VERDICT: I can see why D’Antoni would want Gasol to come off the bench. It probably makes the most sense from a team standpoint to take the starter who is struggling the most, have them play with the second-unit and see if there can be some sort of turnaround from a numbers standpoint, as well as the teams overall success.
However, I don’t see Pau being able to swallow his pride enough to put up with a permanent move. I only see this issue growing more and more to the point where ownership will have no choice but to decide whether or not to deal him before the February 21st deadline.