NBA News: Lakers Right to Start Pau Gasol When He Returns to Lineup

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NBA News: Lakers Right to Start Pau Gasol When He Returns to Lineup
Harry How/Getty Images

Just a few days ago, the idea of Pau Gasol being dealt by the Los Angeles Lakers seemed imminent.

My, how the tables have turned.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN is now reporting that Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni plans on starting the Spaniard when he returns from tendinitis in both of his knees.

Finally, something sensible is coming out of L.A.

Harry How/Getty Images

Unless the Lakers are going to get a couple of high draft picks or worthy replacements in return, the idea of dealing Gasol is absurd.

The last time I checked, it wasn't Gasol's fault that Steve Nash has missed practically every game and Dwight Howard makes free throws about as often as Mark Sanchez throws touchdown passes.

When asked about using Gasol as a sixth man, D'Antoni said,

Not yet, that's not what we need to be doing right now. We need to find him and Steve (Nash) in there together and look at it and make a good assessment. I envision him being really good at what he does at the four, so I don't see that.

Gasol has earned a starting spot on this team, nearly averaging a double-double for his career (18.5 PPG and 9.2 RPG) and helping Los Angeles hang two championship banners in the Staples Center.

It's true he hasn't been at his best this season—averaging 12.6 PPG and 8.8 RPG while sporting a 42 percent field-goal percentage—but that's to be expected when signing a big superstar like Howard.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Gasol has seen his role diminish in the Lakers' offense, so it shouldn't be expected that he produce gaudy numbers. It should also be a given that he's no longer the focal point of the offense with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Howard and eventually Nash all sharing the court, but Gasol can still be productive in that offense.

And it seems as though D'Antoni realizes this, as he told ESPN, "I'm not going to mess with Pau. He's too important to the team and he's earned it and he's too good of a player to even go there. That would be a last resort kind of desperate (move)."

The true test for L.A. will be when Nash returns and the Lakers are at full strength with the likes of Nash, Bryant, Gasol, Howard and Metta World Peace running the show.

For now, the Lakers have to weather the storm and survive without Nash, but keeping Gasol on the floor as a starter is a step in the right direction for Los Angeles.

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