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Mike D'Antoni Is Right, Pau Gasol Will Work in the LA Lakers Offense

EL SEGUNDO, CA - NOVEMBER 15:  Pau Gasol #16 speaks to the media beforee a press confernece introducing Mike D'Antoni as the new Los Angeles Lakers head coach on November 15. 2012 at the Lakers practice facility at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2012

The Los Angeles Lakers have been dealing with struggling and injured players all year long, and none has been more maligned this season than Pau Gasol.

But Mike D'Antoni has unwavering confidence in Gasol, as he should (via the Los Angeles Daily News).

D'Antoni has denied trade rumors surrounding Gasol, stating that none of it comes from him, but rather the other teams interested in Gasol are letting it leak.

I'm not sure how reliable that all is, but everything else D'Antoni said made it seem as if he and the team are completely behind Gasol:

He's another seven-footer who can guard the rim and he's extremely smart, so there's no reason why he can't fit. Ideally, you'd want a guy like Jesse Owens who can run. But he's a big part of what we're going to do.

D'Antoni went on to criticize himself for not being able to fit Gasol in yet and considered what it would mean if he were unable to work him in:

I got to reevaluate myself if I can't play with Pau Gasol. Come on. He's won two championships.

D'Antoni makes it seem that the onus is on him rather than Gasol.

So far this season, Gasol is shooting just 42 percent from the field and averaging 13.1 points per game—both of which would be career lows if they were to hold up for the duration of the season.

The biggest reason for D'Antoni to believe that Gasol can improve—and improve by a lot—is that he's been suffering from tendinitis in his knees since the preseason. The condition is limiting Gasol's speed, agility, explosiveness and jumping ability—all of which kind of hurt his chances of scoring.

Gasol is adamant about not missing time, but at some point it might be wise to think about giving him a few games off to rest his aching knees, thereby potentially speeding up his recovery.

Aside from Gasol's injury, the way he's been used alongside Dwight Howard has been the main reason for his struggles this season. 

Last year he played alongside Andrew Bynum, a certified lane-clogger on offense...but nowhere near to the extent that Howard is. 

Howard is taking nearly 80 percent of his shots from directly at the rim, right inside the restricted zone. Compare that to Bynum's 60 percent last season and there's an obvious difference in offensive schemes.

Looking at Gasol's shot locations, he's shooting 50 percent of his shots in the paint this season, compared to just under 57 percent a season ago, which makes for a big difference stretched out over the course of 82 games.

Taking fewer shots from inside the lane changes his role from being a post player who is a threat to shoot a jumper to a jump-shooting big man who can score in the lane. They've taken away his strength.

Gasol is shooting just 37 percent outside the lane; compare that to just over 41 percent last season. He needs his go-to spot in the post to succeed from outside of the paint.

To do that, D'Antoni is eventually going to see that Gasol needs to play alongside Howard less throughout the course of the game. This problem is easily solved by playing the combination of Gasol and Jordan Hill, an inside shooter and an energy defender, and Howard and Antawn Jamison, a dominant post player and a stretch-4.

Even if that's not how D'Antoni solves the problem, he's going to figure it out in the end. He is, after all, one of the greatest offensive-minded coaches we've ever seen.

At the very least, the return of Steve Nash should be able to help Gasol get the ball in the best situations.

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