Skip to content

Pau Gasol wants to start, but Mike D’Antoni may continue to bring him off the bench

Jan 19, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant AP

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.

When Gasol missed five games due to a concussion, reserve Earl Clark made the most of his opportunity, and proved to be a serviceable big in Gasol’s absence.

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.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles:

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes suspended 20 games for violating NBA’s anti-drug policy

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:54 AM EDT

    Nick Calathes, Damian Lillard AP

    Grizzlies’ guard will definitely be missed in the rotation.

  2. Craig Sager has acute leukemia

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:50 AM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Five Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Five

    We may not see him on the sidelines of TNT games these playoffs.

  3. NBA Playoff Preview: Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:55 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors Getty Images

    This should be the East’s most competitive first round matchup.

  4. NBA Playoff Preview: Charlotte Bobcats vs. Miami Heat

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT

    How quickly can Miami flip the switch?

  5. NBA Playoff Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Can the Pacers regain their early-season swagger now that the playoffs are here?

  6. PBT Extra: Clippers/Warriors playoff preview

    Apr 18, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Expect a fight by the end of Game 2.

  7. PBT Extra: Nets/Raptors playoff preview

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT

    Kyle Lowry, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams Kyle Lowry, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams

    People shouldn’t sleep on the Raptors, particularly the Nets.

  8. NBA Playoff Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    Tony Parker, Samuel Dalembert Tony Parker, Samuel Dalembert

    Dallas has lost nine straight to San Antonio. Don’t expect that streak to stop now.

  9. Ties broken, NBA Draft lottery odds, second half of draft now set

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

    Grant Gilbert AP

    All the draft lottery odds are here, so Lakers fans can look and see what that little run of wins to close out the season did to their odds.

  10. PBT Podcast: NBA playoff preview edition

    Apr 18, 2014, 3:27 PM EDT

    Larry O'Brien trophy Getty Images

    We look at all 8 first round series.

  11. 2014 PBT Awards: All-NBA team

    Apr 18, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    First-team frontcourt a constant, but guard spots debated

  12. Report: Steve Kerr “expects” to be offered, will take Knicks coaching job

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    Virginia v Maryland Virginia v Maryland

    While nothing is set in stone (Mike Woodson has yet to be officially fired) you know back channel conversations have already taken place. It sounds like Kerr wants in.

  13. Jordan Brand unveils the Air Jordan XX9

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Jordan_XX9_695515-005_AJXX9_3Q_original

    Behold: The Air Jordan XX9.

  14. 2014 PBT Awards: Most Valuable Player

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

    Lebron James, Kevin Durant Lebron James, Kevin Durant

    Kevin Durant and LeBron James finish 1-2 on every ballot

  15. Why shot-location defense matters

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat

    Playing effective NBA defense is more about dictating shot location than contesting shots.

  16. One more amazing thing LeBron James has done

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat

    Taking a lot of 3s and making a lot of 2s is not easy

  17. NBA Playoff Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

    Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, David Lee, Chris Paul Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, David Lee, Chris Paul

    With Andrew Bogut the Warriors outplayed the Clippers this season, but Golden State will be without him and that is trouble.

Featured video

Warriors vs. Clippers playoff preview
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. C. Anthony (3395)
  2. K. Love (3386)
  3. L. James (3381)
  4. D. Williams (3373)
  5. D. Wade (3330)
  1. S. Curry (3264)
  2. R. Westbrook (3023)
  3. K. Durant (2876)
  4. R. Rondo (2703)
  5. A. Bogut (2662)