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Lakers may bring Pau Gasol off the bench when he returns from injury

Dec 9, 2012, 8:00 AM EDT

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Pau Gasol has missed the Lakers last three games, two of which were losses, due to tendinitis in his knees.

It’s been evident watching him in the young part of this season that he doesn’t have the energy or the explosiveness necessary to give his team what is expected, so maybe the injury is the true reason behind his slow start.

But what if it isn’t, and Gasol simply can’t find his way for the second straight season in the Lakers offense?

Besides the possibility of being traded at some point, L.A. may look to mix up its lineups, and bring Gasol off the bench whenever he is ready to return to action.

From Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers are debating whether to bring Pau Gasol off the bench when he returns from knee tendinitis, said a person familiar with the team’s thinking.

Gasol has struggled mightily this season, averaging 12.6 points and shooting only 42%, both career lows.

The Lakers are trying to decide how a demotion to the bench would affect Gasol. If they determined it would be adverse, they’d keep him in the starting lineup.

Gasol isn’t the type to pout, and it would be tough to imagine him giving any less than 100 percent playing with the second unit. And let’s not forget, even if someone comes off the bench, the rotation will dictate that he’ll play at some point with members of the starting lineup.

Whether Gasol starts or comes off the bench shouldn’t matter to him personally; he’s started in every game he’s appeared this season, yet didn’t play the entire fourth quarter in Memphis, and was held out for the final six minutes in the embarrassing loss to the Magic.

Mike D’Antoni isn’t going to be afraid to tinker with the lineups while doing everything in his power to make this stacked Lakers team into the title contender we all expected it to be.

If Gasol can adapt to playing with the second unit, and can excel in that role while doing so, he’ll be on the floor in crunch time when it counts.

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