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D’Antoni tells Gasol he won’t bench him at end of games

Dec 21, 2012, 12:39 PM EST

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni smiles with Pau Gasol of Spain and Kobe Bryant during their NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, as he makes his game coaching debut for the Lakers, in Los Angeles Reuters

Starting midway through the third quarter in the Lakers comeback win over the Bobcats Tuesday, Mike D’Antoni stopped playing Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard together. They subbed each other out and D’Antoni went small with a lot of Metta World Peace at the four. It worked, by the way. When Gasol and Howard shared the floor the Lakers were -22 for the game, the comeback started not long after D’Antoni started just having one of his star bigs on the floor.

However, that meant one star big man had to sit the crucial last couple minutes, and that was Gasol. And he didn’t like it.

So Gasol and D’Antoni went out to dinner and tried to talk it out, reports the Los Angeles Times. One of the things to come out of it was Gasol will be playing the end of games.

Gasol said he wanted the ball in the post instead of on the perimeter and also asked to play in crunch time, among the topics discussed with D’Antoni at a Manhattan Beach restaurant.

‘It was to make sure we’re in the same boat,’ Gasol said. ‘We’re trying to reach the same goal. Let’s communicate. Hopefully, we can meet halfway on some points.”

D’Antoni told Gasol he would no longer be benched in crucial situations, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

D’Antoni is like most coaches — he’s willing to try Howard and Gasol together, but he doesn’t want to lose games over it. The Lakers, after their ugly start to the season, are the current 12 seed in the West and while just 1.5 games back of the eight spot there are a lot of good teams bunched up in there such as Utah, Denver, Dallas (which gets Dirk Nowitzki back soon), an improving Timberwolves squad and more. The Lakers path to the playoffs is not easy and they can’t just flip the switch after the All-Star break. They need to win games.

If Gasol and Howard at the end of games doesn’t work in his system, D’Antoni can’t stick with the experiment for long. And that leads to a host of other questions for the franchise.

But for now it’s all good. It’s about communication. Right D’Antoni?

“But I wanted to make sure he knew what my vision was for him and the team and see if that’s all good. Then we’ll tweak it or not tweak it. I thought he was great and gave me a lot of insight into a lot of things. It was more of a feeling-out process and what makes him feel comfortable. He’s a very intelligent basketball player. Why wouldn’t I get his opinion about a lot of things?”

  1. aboogy123456 - Dec 21, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    “They subbed each other out and D’Antoni went small with a lot of Metta World Peace at the four. It worked, by the way. ”

    I don’t disagree that going small could work for the lakers but I watched this game closely and I think the big reason for their up and down performance was simply effort. They were not hustling on defense and losing all the loose balls during the 2nd and 3rd quarter and then they turned it on and made a comeback. In the first quarter, Gasol and Howard played very well together but then the whole team seemed to go flat until the crowd started booing them. Gasol does a great job feeding Howard down low and I think they make each other better, so I’d like to see them play together for the most part.

  2. fanofevilempire - Dec 21, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    what did they eat?

    WTF!

  3. fanofevilempire - Dec 21, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    Gasol is a very good player, either Howard or Gasol has to get touches
    down low andwhen they get the touch do something, this line up is loaded.

  4. chargerdillon - Dec 21, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    Laker fan here trying to ask the obvious question…..DOES IT MATTER?

    Does it matter if Gasol is on the bench or on the court while Kobe is jacking up bad shots and not covering on defense at the end of games?

    Gasols role on the court or bench mean absolutely nothing in the wake of how Kobe is playing all to himself.

    If Gasol were traded tomorrow, NOTHING would change in the current way the Lakers are playing.

    This is from a Laker fan who would love to see this team successful. It all starts and ends with Kobe.

  5. jerdogthompson - Dec 21, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    I was doing some math earlier on what it would take for the Lakers to get to 48 wins and possibly (big giant possibly) capture an 8 seed in the West.

    They would need to finish the season winning just about 65% of the remaining games. Possible? Sure. Albeit they have forgone the cushy portion of one of the cushiest schedules of any team in the NBA thus far. Most of their remaining are against teams that are vying for or pretty much locks for a playoff spot. I do also believe that a really good chunk of those games are on the road.

    Put simply, they have to finish the remaining portion of the season 46-20 to have a chance at an 8 seed.

    The countdown to “Lakers are mathematically eliminated” headline begins today. Best of luck ladies………

    • rjlink1 - Dec 21, 2012 at 5:56 PM

      36-20, but point made. That’s realistically achievable and exceedable, if the team is as good with Nash as everyone expected. But if Nash goes down again, or Kobe gets hurt, it’s likely the Lakers miss the playoffs. In any event, the Lakers are not getting a top-4 seed, so any march through the playoffs is going to have to happen on the road.

    • eventhorizon04 - Dec 21, 2012 at 9:25 PM

      Lakers have 12 wins, so by your own math, they have to clear 36-20 (65%).
      So far this season, they’ve been wining only 46% of their games (12-14 record).

      Their next 10 opponents are the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers, Philadelphia 76ers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and OKC Thunder. Those are all playoff or near playoff teams.

      If they make it through that 10 game stretch with mostly wins (say 7-3), they just need to finish the season 29-17 (63% win percentage), which is doable. A team that wins 63% of its games finishes an 82-game season with 52 wins and 30 losses – that’s equivalent to a mid-playoff-seed team, and the Lakers, in theory, should be able to play equivalent to a 4th or 5th seed team.

      If they do poorly in that 10-game stretch, say 2-8, they have to go 34-12 (74%) to finish the season, or basically win 3 times for each loss. A team that wins 74% of its games finishes an 82-game season with 61 wins and 21 losses – that’s equivalent to an ELITE playoff team (top-2 seed). The Lakers would have to finish the year winning games at a very high rate.

      After these 10-games, especially since they’ll have Pau for all of them and Nash for at least 9 of them, it’ll be easier to judge whether the Lakers are in serious trouble.

  6. ndirishfan1 - Dec 21, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    D’Antoni can probably say this with a straight face, because if playing Howard and Gasol together doesn’t work Gasol is a goner.

  7. hoodheisman - Dec 21, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    I really don’t care for D’Antoni’s style at all. Rotations should not be determined over dinner. This should be dictated by game situations. Everything D’Antoni does has the look and feel of an assistant coach, not a head coach. Rebounding, defense, and turnovers are what’s hurting this team the most. This is addressed by a head coach that instills discipline and accountability. D’Antoni is just not cut out for this.

  8. jerdogthompson - Dec 21, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    Rlink, you caught my “fat finger” mistake. You are correct. 36-20 is correct. Although the winning 65% of remaining games is absolutely correct. Honestly, they can remain healthy and not win 65%, you only have a small percentage of elite teams able to play at or above that win % currently. Even if they were able to get to that win % it would certainly take a while and by virtue of averages by the time they get to winning 65% the actual average will likely be somewhere closer to 45-50%.

    Like I said, countdown to the inevitable headline has started which bums me slightly. I believe Los Angeles would benefit from an across the hall playoff between the Lakers & Clippers. I’m not a Laker fan but I’m routing for just that sort of matchup come playoffs, just don’t see how that’s possibly at the juncture. We shall see though.

    • mytthor - Dec 22, 2012 at 12:24 AM

      It doesn’t matter if the Lakers barely edge into the playoffs, because if they can’t win 65% of their games going forward, they won’t do anything in the playoffs anyway. If they squeak in, who cares? No one in Lakerland considers a first round knockout a success.

      On a related note, it always cracks me up when teams are worried about their playoff seeding so they “don’t have to face the Thunder (or whomever) until the conference finals.” If you don’t think you can beat them in the 2nd round, what’s the point in facing them in the 3rd?

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