Report: Lakers, Mike D'Antoni Permanently Bench Pau Gasol in Favor of Earl Clark

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2013

Head coach Mike D'Antoni has announced that he will be benching forward Pau Gasol in favor of Earl Clark in the Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup, effective immediately.

The announcement comes a day after Gasol had his most productive game of the year, scoring 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting against the Toronto Raptors Sunday night.

After his best game of the season, Pau is back to the bench. Clark starting. D'Antoni: "We gotta go small"

— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 22, 2013

There has been chatter all year long about bringing Gasol in off the bench. That way, the Lakers will have the ability to split time between focusing in on him and Dwight Howard in the post, highlighting the positives each player shows.

With the season-ending injury to backup big man Jordan Hill, the move makes even more sense. Plus, the Lakers will be able to run smaller than normal.

D’Antoni feels the Lakers are best when playing smaller, & thinks it can work better with Gasol punishing second units.

— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) January 22, 2013

Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register talked to D'Antoni, who said he already talked to Gasol about the move:

D'Antoni already talked to Pau Gasol about the switch to the bench. About that, D'Antoni said: "That's life. He understands." D'Antoni also said: "It also puts Pau in his natural position. He's one of the best centers in the league." Gasol will get some post touches off the bench, and the Lakers hope Clark changes them with athleticism. D'Antoni said it gives them "a little more bounce to our step.

D'Antoni wants to play his way: small. "We're better when we're small." Earl Clark is the new starting power forward.

— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) January 22, 2013


Of course, the move does raise a few concerns, even if it does seem to be the best move at the moment for the franchise.

If your "system" can't accommodate Pau Gasol as a starter in this league, well maybe consider changing your system? Or just die stubborn.

— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) January 22, 2013

At $19 million, Pau Gasol is the No. 9 highest-paid player in the NBA this season.

— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) January 22, 2013

On January 21st, 2013, Pau Gasol was benched for Earl Clark. #LakerSeasonMoments

— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 22, 2013


Even further, it's got to be on everyone's mind that Gasol has lost a bit of his value now that Dwight Howard is clogging the paint. He's no longer the go-to scorer down low.

That has to lead to some talk about a trade in the near future, and Gasol has even said as much himself.

The fact that Gasol would tell Sager it's "certainly looking like a possibility" that he'll be traded tells you where his mind is at.

— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 22, 2013

It's going to be an interesting few weeks, depending on how the Lakers play with Pau coming off the bench.