Kobe Bryant's Endorsement of Pau Gasol Won't Solve LA Lakers' Problems
Per a report via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant stated that he believes in the embattled Pau Gasol. This comes mere days after general manager Mitch Kupchak reportedly told Gasol that it was adapt or be traded (via ESPN Los Angeles).
An apparent threat that proves Bryant's endorsement of Gasol won't solve the Los Angeles Lakers' problems.
Shelburne reports that Bryant expressed his concern over Gasol's injuries. Kobe also proceeded to explain how Gasol is still capable of dominating a game with his world-class abilities, which is why Bryant does not believe Pau should be traded.
He even went as far as referring to Gasol as his "brother."
"I love Pau like a brother," Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday. "I really do. I want him to dominate like I know he can."
"I know his knees have been hurting and that can be frustrating because you can't do physically what you are used to," Bryant said Tuesday. "I just don't want him to sulk about the change of things."
Like it or not, Kobe is right. Gasol can still dominate a game as very few big men have ever been able to.
We said it during Mike Brown's first year and we're saying it again. When Gasol is in the post, he's as dominant a force as you will find across the globe.
When he's not, Gasol becomes an inconsistent contributor. Which is the first place we begin with the much bigger issues in Los Angeles.
In the Post or Out of Town
According to Shelburne , Pau Gasol recently stated that he would benefit from more touches in the post. After all, Gasol is one of the greatest low-post players in NBA history due to his ability to score and facilitate with his back to the basket.
Even still, all he's seeing are jump shots.
"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."
"I'm not a pure jump-shooter," he said. "I can stretch the defense out and make a couple jumpers. But how I get going is by getting in the paint and creating off the post, things like that."
Kobe Bryant may believe in Pau Gasol's ability to adapt to head coach Mike D'Antoni's system, but let's get one thing straight. Not only would Gasol be changing his game to fit a design, but he would be moving away from his greatest ability.
Which should the Los Angeles Lakers execute?
In other words, there is a major difference between adaptation and the neutralization of one's greatest strength.
Does D'Antoni Care?
In order for Pau Gasol to contribute to the highest extent of his abilities, he must be removed from the role of floor-spreading jump shooter. No matter how much head coach Mike D'Antoni hates to admit it, there is nothing more offensively dominant than having an elite low-post player.
Something which Kobe Bryant acknowledges Gasol can and needs to be.
"I want him to dig in and be determined, not discouraged," Bryant continued. "We should go to him more on the post because he can dominate from there as he has to the tune of two rings. I'm sure we will adjust and figure out a balance when he comes back healthy."
Gasol knows it, Kobe knows it and the entire NBA universe appears to be aware of it. After all, the Lakers have won five NBA championships since the turn of the century by utilizing that very low-high formula.
The only one who isn't buying in is the head coach.
As for why, look no further than the fact that Mike D'Antoni has proven to be stubborn in his ways. Even as Gasol is shooting 39 percent from mid-range and 20.0 percent on corner threes, D'Antoni refuses to shift Gasol to his comfort zone in the post.
This is almost as poor a decision as his handling of Jordan Hill.
When Hill sees at least 17 minutes of playing time, the Lakers are 7-3. When he does not, they're 2-7.
Under D'Antoni, Hill has played 17 minutes in just three of nine games. But I digress.
If D'Antoni is unwilling to maximize the greatest strength of an elite player on his roster, the only option is to fire the coach or trade the player. Leaving Gasol's world class abilities and his $57 million on the bench or in an improper position certainly aren't rational options.
The players have done their job in adapting to the system. It's time for D'Antoni to do the same with the personnel.
For those who believe that Pau Gasol not being a fit for head coach Mike D'Antoni's system is the only personnel issue, think again. The Los Angeles Lakers are not athletic or savvy enough with the three-ball to make this system work.
That's why they made 12 three-pointers against the Dallas Mavericks on November 24 and shot 6-of-28 from distance against Indiana on November 27. It's the furthest thing from their specialty.
Jodie Meeks aside, the Lake Show is made up of average three-point shooters.
Kobe Bryant has a career mark of 33.7 percent, while Metta World Peace sits at 34.3. Even the smooth-shooting Antawn Jamison is at 34.6 for his career.
So where does D'Antoni get the idea that relying on the perimeter game is the way to go? Why doesn't he see that Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are available to throw it inside to?
Furthermore, where exactly are the athletes?
The most athletically gifted players on the Lakers roster are Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Devin Ebanks, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jodie Meeks and Darius Morris. Outside of Howard, those aren't exactly groundbreaking names.
A fair inference considering just Howard and Meeks see consistent playing time.
D-12 also happens to be the center and defensive stopper. Having him run in transition nullifies his value in the paint on D.
Where is the Defense?
Forget about their relatively solid mark of 97.5 points allowed per game, the Los Angeles Lakers can't play defense.
Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill are altering shots, but they're being forced to leave their man far too often. Although that might come as expected, the Lakers are not rotating in the proper manner to provide support to the help-side defenders.
In turn, teams are scoring at virtual will when they attack the basket. Even as D-12 and Hill put forth admirable defensive efforts, their original man is open for an easy flush.
You learn the proper rotations by practicing and preaching defense. Do you see where I'm going here?
Until the Lakers commit to defense as a team, they will continue to display this level of inefficiency. Although we've documented the Hack-a-Howard as the reason the Lakers lost to the Houston Rockets, we cannot overlook one important fact.
They also allowed Houston to score 34 points in the fourth quarter. Howard going 5-of-10 from the line in that period isn't the reason they lost.
Their inability to slow the likes of Greg Smith down is the reason they lost.
It begins and ends with defense in Los Angeles. No matter how powerful this offensive unit may be, they are only as strong as their ability to slow an opponent down.
So far under D'Antoni, they've allowed five of their nine opponents to score at least 100 points. Time to get to work on D or experience underwhelming results.
Oh, and just for the record, that's not on Gasol. That's much, much bigger than an individual player.
That's a problem Kobe's endorsement can't solve.
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