Jan 19, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT
The Lakers don’t need any more problems in this troubled season, one in which the team is merely trying to figure things out just enough to sneak back into the playoff picture before time runs out.
But there may be one brewing between Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni.
In Gasol’s first game back from the injury, he came off the bench due to concerns over his conditioning, but that was believed to be a short-term role for the player who was a part of two championship teams in Los Angeles.
It turns out, however, that Mike D’Antoni is strongly considering bringing Gasol off the bench more permanently. And that’s not something that’s going to sit well with Gasol.
My job is to put the best team on the floor,” D’Antoni explained 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.”
That all sounds fine, and D’Antoni is right — if in fact the best lineup combinations for the team involve Gasol beginning the game as a reserve, then theoretically, so be it. Gasol should be fine with it for the greater good of the team, etc.
Managing egos, however, is a huge part of being a successful head coach in the NBA, especially at the championship level. The ability to do that masterfully, more than anything, is the reason why Phil Jackson has 11 rings as a coach. Sure, he had all the talent in the world. But getting Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to coexist long enough for the Lakers to get three straight titles out of the pair before things went south was no small feat, and D’Antoni risks alienating Gasol if he doesn’t take into account the ego of one of the team’s best players, and one who is among those Bryant trusts the most.
Gasol will, of course, do his best to make it work. But his comments on the situation were telling, as he made it clear that he’s not going to be thrilled if indeed the decision is made to continue to bring him off the bench.
“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.”
A “star starter.” There’s the ego piece creeping in, and again, D’antoni needs to be sensitive to that.
Now, to the coach’s credit, he’s said more than once that it isn’t who starts the games that matter; it’s who finishes them. And he practiced what he preached in Thursday’s game against Miami — Gasol came off the bench and played just 24 minutes, but was on the floor with the rest of the starters for the entire fourth quarter when the game was in the balance.
As we discussed on the podcast, there’s an easy way to make this work. D’Antoni could placate Gasol by starting him for the game’s first four-to-six minutes, and then rotate him how he sees fit the rest of the contest, before inserting him down the stretch with the rest of the players who make up the team’s strongest lineup.
D’Antoni has a reputation of being a bit stubborn where player matters are concerned, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go with Gasol as a reserve for another game or two. But it would be to the long-term detriment of his team, and this season more than any other, the Lakers simply don’t need any more problems.
May 4, 2015, 12:10 AM EDT
Wall looked like one of the best point guards and leaders in the game Monday.
May 3, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Nobody wanted to talk about the future in the wake of an emotional loss.
May 3, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
The Grizzlies have some work to do defensively to slow Curry.
May 3, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT
Harden comes in second in the voting.
May 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
He was loudly booed by the Oracle Arena crowd.
May 3, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT
Memphis, minus Mike Conley, looks completely overmatched (as expected)
May 3, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
Divisions and seeding have been a source of controversy recently.
May 3, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
It was a tale of two halves, and the Wizards took the key one.
May 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Most major media members picked the Spurs.
May 3, 2015, 3:08 PM EDT
Beal looked to be in significant pain.
Doc Rivers on whether Chris Paul will play in Game 1 vs. Rockets: ‘If I had to guess, I would say no’
May 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Paul battled through a hamstring injury during his incredible Game 7 performance.
May 3, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Wizards could make things difficult on the top-seeded Hawks.
May 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Cavaliers could be OK against the Bulls (even without Kevin Love), Warriors remain favorites and more lessons from the first round
May 3, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Thibs may not want to go to Orlando if he becomes a free agent as a coach.
May 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The Clippers got a free look at the final play.
May 3, 2015, 12:58 AM EDT
Tell me again how he can’t win the big one.
May 2, 2015, 11:53 PM EDT
There’s not going to be a better series these playoffs.
May 2, 2015, 10:56 PM EDT
It was going to take a shot like that to win this, the best first-round series in recent memory.
May 2, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT
He was out for eight minutes the Clippers were only -2.
May 2, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT
Dudley has player option for $4.25 million for next season, but hopes to back in Milwaukee regardless.
- Ginobili, Duncan, Popovich dance around questions about Spurs’ future 2
- Reports: Stephen Curry to be named MVP Monday 29
- Hawks start hot, finish cold, Wizards take Game 1 on road 104-98. 7
- PBT Second-Round Playoff Preview: Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks 4
- Adjusting for playoff rotations round two: Watch out for the Wizards 2
- Hobbled Chris Paul, Clippers’ role players do just enough to dethrone Spurs in Game 7 20
- Chris Paul banks in game winner to lift Clippers past Spurs (VIDEO) 28
- Report: Bulls’ Mike Dunleavy won’t be suspended for Game 1 against Cavaliers 22