Pau Gasol's Knee Injury Will Prove Antawn Jamison's Value to LA Lakers

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Pau Gasol's Knee Injury Will Prove Antawn Jamison's Value to LA Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol will miss the team's December 4th game against the Houston Rockets. The reason cited is tendinitis in both of the big man's knees, which could sideline Gasol for an extended period of time.

Fear not, Lakers fans. Gasol's knee injuries will prove Antawn Jamison's value to the Lakers.

With Gasol producing at an uncharacteristically low level, one can only assume that it will take longer than one game for him to recover. His numbers presently sit at 12.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while his field goal percentage is a career-worst 42.0.

Gasol doesn't appear inclined to return until he's healthy enough to lift those numbers up.

"It's something that's hard to predict because you just got to let it calm down," Gasol said before the Rockets game Tuesday. "So, until I feel like I can be out there playing close to 100 percent or at 100 percent, the team doesn't deserve any less, I don't deserve any less to be out there performing at my best and that's what I'll try to do."

When interviewed about Gasol's injuries, head coach Mike D'Antoni was clear that a full recovery is the only option. No matter how poor of a fit Gasol is in D'Antoni's offensive design, there is a reason he is a two-time NBA champion and a four-time All-Star.

There's also a reason players are advised to only play when healthy.

"The biggest thing with him was that he was playing hurt and in this league you just can't do that," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I just didn't think he was running fluidly."

"We got to get him healthy," D'Antoni said. "Whatever it takes—one game, two games, 10 games—I don't know. It's day to day but he's got to be healthy. It wasn't fair [to him]. He's trying to battle through some stuff and in this league, you just can't do that."

"Somebody's woe is somebody's gain and they got to take advantage of it," D'Antoni said.

That someone is Jamison.

Even at the age of 36, the former North Carolina Tar Heel is producing at a high level when given the opportunity to play. For those who believe this to be a mirage, look no further than his 2011-12 campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

A season in which he ranked second on the team with an average of 17.2 points per game.

The question is, what exactly does Jamison mean to the success of the Lakers? Is he just another reserve with a big name? Or can Jamison actually make a difference?

Only time will tell. Fortunately, Gasol's injury offers an opportunity for Jamison to shine.

 

Solid Fit for D'Antoni 4

During games in which Antawn Jamison has played at least 25 minutes, he is averaging 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Although those numbers have come with outliers such as his 33 point and 12 rebound performance against Denver, they're indicative of one important fact.

Jamison is a solid fit for Mike D'Antoni's system.

D'Antoni's design is one which eliminates the value of low-post players and maximizes that of jump shooting bigs. The way this occurs is by placing the power forward and shooting guard on opposite sides of the floor, positioning each in a respective corner as floor spacers.

Such a style has led to the worst field goal percentage of Gasol's 11-year career.

Jamison, meanwhile, is shooting 48.0 percent from the floor and specializes as a jump shooter. Although he is not the elite mid-range player that Lakers fans are making him out to be, Jamison is a certain improvement over Gasol.

Why?

 

Spread-the-Floor 4

Thus far in 2012-13, Jamison is shooting 60.0 percent from mid-range. He's also shooting 36.6 percent from above the break, although he has posted one number that offers cause for concern.

Jamison is shooting just 21.1 percent on corner threes.

Clearly Jamison and Gasol are not going to step in as three-point shooting bigs that will alter games with their deep ball. What Jamison provides, however, is the caliber shooter who will spread the floor with his ability to either put it up or place it on the floor.

Jamison is far more likely to blow by an opponent for a baseline finish than Gasol. Yet another benefit of his spread-the-floor abilities.

 

Fourth Quarter Finishing

Through 17 games, Pau Gasol is shooting 37.9 percent from the floor during the fourth quarter. Antawn Jamison, meanwhile, is shooting 46.9 percent from the field during the final period of play.

In other words, Jamison gives the Los Angeles Lakers the best chance to secure a victory.

What this means for the way Gasol and Jamison are utilized in the rotation come the Spaniard's return from injury is debatable. What is clear, however, is that Jamison has firmly established himself as the better game-finishing big.

No matter how well Kobe Bryant may play with the game on the line, there must be closing minute scorers alongside him. Based off of the numbers, Jamison is a much better fit for said role than Gasol has been in 2012-13.

Now it's time for Jamison to prove he is the man for the starting job.

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