“It’s hard to know personalities if you don’t get in touch with them.”
This was in reference to the quirky, uneasy start that Gasol and D’Antoni got off to. In D’Antoni’s first game with the Lakers, he began by benching Gasol in the fourth quarter, reasoning, “I was thinking I’d like to win this game.”
D’Antoni oddly determined that the best way to win his first game with his new team – the core of which being two years removed from back-to-back NBA titles – was to sit its All-Star forward because he presumably didn’t fit into his system which wasn’t in place yet?
No, this was D’Antoni’s power play, his attempt to send a message that his self-flattering system comes first, and will be the reason this team lives (or dies).
“He has his philosophy and system, and the Lakers hired him,” said Gasol. “It’s not his fault. “His philosophy is to play with one big guy and four guys spread out, so then he had to make a decision: Dwight or Pau?
“They try to decide how I can be productive in this mix, while I know I’m not going to be in position to do what I do best and help us win more games. It’s frustrating, but it’s not going to stop me from playing as hard as I can in whatever role.”
Despite being relegated to the bench, Gasol seems willing to make it work in LA. Whether he fits in D’Antoni’s system or not, he can still play at a high level, and is still one of the top-five power forwards in the game. He’s averaging 20 points and nine rebounds in the Lakers three consecutive road wins in Howard’s absence.
According to NBA.com’s stats, it’s obvious that both Gasol and Howard’s production decreases when they’re on the court together.
Gasol has been backed into a pick-and-pop roll akin to the style that Dirk Nowitzki likes to play. Gasol is not Nowitzki, and should not be surfacing around the 3-point line waiting for jumpers that are out of his natural range.
You’ll see on NBA.com’s player comparision that Gasol’s points and rebounds both jump when he plays without Howard, but oddly enough,
Howard’s numbers are nearly identical. As Gasol begins to find his rhythm and escape his injuries, is it possible that these two may be able to coexist when Howard returns?
“In a perfect world I’d love to see us dominating as an interior couple, thereby making everything easier for our teammates.”
“Nothing is going to change, but I have no doubt we could coexist and dominate every single game,” Gasol said, the proof in how well he played alongside his brother for Spain. “I believe 100% if I was starting inside with Dwight we could make the playoffs. I just don’t know if coming off the bench gives the team a chance to be better and win more games.”
While the numbers agree with D’Antoni’s decision to bring Gasol off the bench and play the two separately, the glaring good/bad results are primarily the product of D’Antoni’s system. While the Lakers did not look great in their first few games, they were far more injured and much less experienced with each other than they are now.
The Gasol/Howard combination under both Mike Brown and interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff was a net positive.
“But I’m not going to let it affect me. In a way he’s messing with my season, but not my career. I know what I’ve accomplished, and I still feel like I’m one of the best players in the world.”
With or without the Lakers.
More around the NBA
- According to the bossman, Chris Sheridan, Pistons’ guard Will Bynum will be a hot commodity on the trade market: Our own Moke Hamilton has advocated the New York Knicks going after him, and it would not surprise me at all if the Oklahoma City Thunder made a bid for Bynum, who would bring stability and scoring to the backup point guard position behind Russell Westbrook.