Can Pau Gasol's Request for More Touches in the Paint Work with Dwight Howard?

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Can Pau Gasol's Request for More Touches in the Paint Work with Dwight Howard?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

After being benched in the third quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and not returning Friday night, forward Pau Gasol said after the game that more touches in the paint would help solve the issues surrounding his dismal production.

"All my looks are jump shots," he said. "I would like to see something closer to the basket and not just rolling, especially when Dwight is there. But we'll see. We'll figure it out. We're just starting, pretty much."

Unfortunately for Gasol, his primary role in the Lakers offense includes being able to hit shots from the perimeter and keeping the paint area clear for Dwight Howard to work.

I'm sure that new head coach Mike D'Antoni will try to incorporate more strategies based on Gasol's ability in the paint, but on principle alone those options will be limited because of Howard's presence.

Howard doesn't have Gasol's ability to step outside of the paint and knock down jumpers, and any plays that take him away from the rim makes the Lakers less effective as a team. Conversely, trying to create spacing with both Howard and Gasol will be a challenge, and it would make it harder for point guard Steve Nash to find his passing lanes once he returns.

So, how should the Lakers handle this new dilemma, to go along with the many others that have plagued them thus far? Well, the first step would be admitting that the Howard-Gasol tandem might not work, especially in D'Antoni's system.

 

The coach's scheme is similar to that of Howard's former team, the Orlando Magic, when it comes to isolating Howard in the post and surrounding him with shooters.

However, the Lakers don't have a forward like Ryan Anderson who could simultaneously stretch the defense with his shooting range and clear out the paint for Howard. And Gasol doesn't have the quickness or mobility to play the same pick-and-pop role that Amar'e Stoudemire played in Phoenix.

I can feel Gasol's pain when it comes to getting more touches in the paint, and standing outside firing jumpers is certainly not the best way to utilize his vast array of skills. But what else can the Lakers do?

Howard lacks Gasol's fundamental skill and there can be an argument made that right now he looks just as bad as Gasol, but Howard is still recovering from injury. When healthy, his ability to dominate on both ends of the court is greater than Gasol's need for more touches in the paint.

Unless the Lakers attempt to find a player who is more comfortable in D'Antoni's offense, it appears that the team will just have to find a way to work through yet another roadblock in a season that has had its fair share, yet is only 13 games old.

Most Lakers fans are rooting for Gasol to find his fading shot because he is definitely a better player than his 3-of-10 shooting performance against Memphis suggests.

The only problem is Gasol's final line only included one attempt that came from within 10 feet of the rim. While more post plays would appease Gasol, would it ultimately make the Lakers a better team?

The Lakers' ability to find a balance between Howard and Gasol is another challenge D'Antoni must confront before the team can think about the postseason, much less the NBA Finals. But is this something that can really be fixed based on D'Antoni's history?

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