Pau Gasol has been a scapegoat for many of the Los Angeles Lakers' problems in 2012-13. He has been subjected to trade rumors, began woefully underperforming under a new coach and, most recently, was banished to the bench.
However, the Spaniard is not letting this get him down just yet—as CBS Sports’ Ken Berger is reporting Gasol will not complain about his reserve role and isn’t planning on requesting a trade with the Feb. 21 deadline on the horizon.
That certainly doesn’t mean he’s happy with the situation, stating:
It's hard for anybody who considers himself one of the top players in the world to say,”'OK, I'm OK with coming off the bench.” It's a difficult situation that we've been dealing with here. The last few games have been great, and we're staying positive and we look forward to that to continue. But at the same time, we don't need any other distractions, any more negativity. We need positive embracing, we need focus, we need to support each other. That's where we're at and that's where I'm at, too.
Gasol conceded his starting role to journeyman Earl Clark in Jan. 23’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and has continued to come off the pine since.
Because the Lakers have found a modicum of success over the past two games, coach Mike D’Antoni could continue to leave the 32-year-old PF on the bench at the opening tip in favor of Clark.
As long as it helps L.A. win in 2013, Gasol is on board. He’s not certain he could accept the sixth-man designation for long, but in the context of this campaign, the veteran is all in (as per Berger):
"Right now I want this team to work. I feel we have a very privileged team with great athletes. It's been a crazy year for everyone, and I understand that. And the last thing I'll be here is selfish right now. So I'm willing to work with what we have right now for the rest of the year and have no problems, because I want it to work. And I'm not a guy that just quits on himself or on his team."
With the Lakers sitting six games below .500 (19-25), John Hollinger of ESPN currently has the team’s odds of making the postseason at 30.4 percent. However, as long as L.A. continues to win, those chances will rapidly improve and the team could be a major threat as a low seed in the Western Conference.
Will the Lakers make the playoffs?
Gasol has to realize this is likely his best chance of capturing a third ring, and most potential teams he would land with in a trade would not be contending for a championship.
D’Antoni and the Lakers brass also need to remember that the Spaniard is an instrumental part of this roster, and when he’s playing his strongest, they are a much better team for it.
Things may not be perfect in L.A., but they are finally looking up. Gasol’s willingness to adapt and embrace a team-first mentality is definitely contributing to the turnaround.