Pau Gasol or Mike D'Antoni: Who Will Be the First to Leave the Lakers?
Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol insisted that he didn't want to be traded after being benched for the majority of the fourth quarter in a 107-102 loss to the Clippers on Friday night, but something definitely needs to change for the Lakers in a hurry.
Gasol was benched for the fourth time in the Mike D'Antoni era, and the only thing more confounding about his regression as a player is D'Antoni's complete and utter ignorance when it comes to utilizing Gasol's vast array of skills.
Many people expected Gasol's scoring to suffer on a team that has a roster that includes Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, but the beauty of Gasol's game is his ability to impact a contest in various areas.
Gasol doesn't need to score in order to be effective, but it is D'Antoni's responsibility to put him in the best position to make an impact.
Apparently, in D'Antoni's opinion, that place is on the bench.
D'Antoni has said that Gasol's most recent benching was not an indictment against him; it's just that Gasol was not having a very good game. What D'Antoni didn't say is that the bad games and benchings will likely continue for Gasol since he's been placed in an impossible position.
Gasol has perimeter skills, but he's a much more effective player with his back to the basket. However, D'Antoni either has no idea on how to get him more touches in the paint, or the stubborn faith he has in his system has no place for Gasol.
Ideally, D'Antoni's offense needs a big forward who is comfortable and consistent shooting from the perimeter, which makes point guard Steve Nash more dangerous when he penetrates the lane.
A stretch forward would also open up more space in the middle for Dwight Howard and prevent opponents from easily collapsing on him once the ball enters the post.
Gasol doesn't fit the description of that type of player, but does that mean he has no value to the team?
Gasol is the team's second-best passer behind Nash, and he has better fundamental skills in the post than Dwight Howard. But D'Antoni seems hellbent on ignoring those attributes while trying to emphasize the poorest aspect of Gasol's game.
Would it kill D'Antoni to draw up a few plays for Gasol at the rim? Or how about running a few pick-and-roll plays with Nash that begin with Howard on the elbow and Gasol in the paint?
At this point, it surely wouldn't hurt the Lakers to experiment a little, and in the end, it may be D'Antoni's only recourse if he hopes to save his job.
Bryant himself has said that Gasol needs to receive far more looks in the post in order to be effective, and as Gasol notes, he must also be more aggressive in seeking to establish his own identity in the Lakers offense.
But at some point D'Antoni must also prove that he deserves to be the coach of the NBA's highest-profile team, and so far the only answer he seems to have is sending Gasol to the bench late in games.
Should the Lakers trade Pau or fire D'Antoni?
D'Antoni has brought excitement and an up-tempo style to Los Angeles, but it hasn't resulted in wins. And while Lakers fans definitely love a little flash, they prefer substance, and so far D'Antoni's coaching style has proven to only be surface deep.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, it may take a Gasol trade to prove that he is really not the problem, and then the Lakers can spend the rest of their spring trying to find D'Antoni's replacement since the playoffs don't seem like a reality while he's roaming the sidelines.
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