With Steve Nash still a week away from even a possible time frame for his return from a fractured fibula in his left leg (according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times), the L.A. Lakers are forced to attempt to manufacture ways to kick start Mike D'Antoni's offense.
Since D'Antoni moved to the Lakers' bench on November 20, his team has reached the century mark just once in four games. They were 5-5 before his arrival and are 2-2 since.
The Lakers' starting bigs have struggled mightily in adapting to the team's second offensive system in the season's early goings. Dwight Howard scored 23 points in that Nov. 20 win over the Brooklyn Nets, but he has managed just 29 in the three games since. Pau Gasol, who was struggling long before the arrival of his new coach, has managed just 11.0 points per game on 42.5 percent shooting with D'Antoni at the helm.
But the Lakers do have one forward making noise in the team's new system. Antawn Jamison, who logged just over 14 minutes in D'Antoni's first two games, has totaled 35 points in his past two outings. He's shot 7-of-11 from the field in each game and converted three of his seven three-point attempts.
Jamison told ESPN Radio's Mason and Ireland (transcribed here on sportsradiointerviews.com) that the team's new free-flowing offense has lifted the tension off of his field-goal attempts. No longer relegated to being just a three-point shooter, he has found (and converted) attempts at or near the basket.
He has appeared much closer to filling the sixth-man role the Lakers envisioned when they inked the 14-year veteran to a one-year deal over the summer. But with Gasol looking more and more lost in translation with his new coach, Laker fans have been murmuring about an even bigger role for Jamison going forward.
The arguments for more playing time for the versatile forward are as persistent as they are compelling.
For starters, his mere presence on the perimeter opens up the floor for D'Antoni's famed pick-and-role attack. It also allows Howard the necessary space to create his own offense, much in the same manner that sharp-shooter Ryan Anderson spread the floor for Howard in Orlando in 2011-12.
Gasol has no ambitions to become a three-point shooter. In fact, he appears increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of his touches he's received from the basket. He's a capable (albeit hesitant) mid-range shooter, but that hasn't been his traditional preference point over his career. In fact, Gasol told ESPN LA's Ramona Shelburne that he'd prefer a move back to the post.
D'Antoni has found past success with stretch forwards like Channing Frye, Boris Diaw and Shawn Marion in Phoenix and Steve Novak in New York. Likewise, Howard has enjoyed similar success sharing the floor with Anderson and Rashard Lewis.
In other words, both have thrived with players who play a lot more like Jamison and a lot less like Gasol.
If Jamison continues to have an impact on the glass (22 rebounds in his past two games), it will be increasingly difficult finding arguments to keep Gasol in the starting lineup. In D'Antoni's offense, Gasol will either continue to fire errant mid-range jumpers or just clog up the spacing reserved for Howard's post offense and Laker driving lanes.
Maybe the 38-year-old Nash will prove to be the pivotal missing piece in assimilating Gasol to the Lakers' new offense. Then again, maybe Gasol won't even in be in the starting lineup by the time Nash makes it back to the NBA hardwood.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of 11/27/2012.
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