Pau Gasol and Mike D'Antoni seemed like they would fit hand-in-hand when it was announced that D'Antoni would be replacing Mike Brown, but it seems more and more that Gasol won't end up being in the Lakers' long-term plans.
Already we've seen Gasol relegated to bench work when Dwight Howard has been in the starting lineup and heard trade rumors swirl faster than a Texas tornado. Not only that, but Gasol has voiced his displeasure intermittently throughout the season.
Most recently Gasol expressed his doubt that he and Howard can coexist past this season if Howard is to re-sign with the Lakers.
"If this coach stays and Dwight Howard remains with the Lakers," I asked, "what about you?"
"It would be hard for me to deal with another season knowing the facts you just mentioned," said Gasol, 32 and with one year remaining on his contract.
"So do you ask for a fresh start elsewhere?"
"It's a possibility," he said, "yes."
Gasol and Howard are two extremely effective post players, and both have a lot to offer to any team that would have them. However, with the system that D'Antoni runs, it's impossible to use the two of them at their maximum level.
That's the crux of the problem right there.
Howard is the future, Gasol is the past, and they don't fit well together with the way that D'Antoni runs an offense.
That's not so much a criticism of his offense as much as it is an observation about the way he runs things.
For the entirety of his career, D'Antoni has been focused on the pick-and-roll with the point guard and one big man in the post being the focal point of the offense. Beyond that he works best with two wings who can shoot and a big man who can stretch the floor.
It's always been Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, or Amar'e and Shawn Marion, or Marion in the post with Diaw stretching the floor.
In fact, the only time we've ever really seen much success with two true big men in the lineup was for 28 games in 2008 after the Suns traded for Shaquille O'Neal when D'Antoni ran Shaq and Amar'e together and piled up a 17-11 record.
The only problem is that their team was better without Shaq, winning 67 percent of their games before the trade, compared to 60 percent afterward.
If the Lakers think that D'Antoni and Howard can succeed together—and they should be able to—then Gasol just doesn't fit into the mix.
It's not that Gasol isn't good enough to fill the role of the stretch-four that D'Antoni loves so much—it's that they're wasting money with him in that role.
Paying a man $19 million to be the best version of Boris Diaw imaginable is borderline crazy, especially when you can watch other guys get better results for the team playing Gasol's role.
The presumed starting lineup coming into the season, Nash-Kobe-Metta World Peace-Gasol-Howard, has registered just three more points scored than given up so far this season.
Compare that to the current starting lineup of Nash-Kobe-Metta-Earl Clark-Howard, which has a net score of plus-39, or even a lineup of Nash-Kobe-Metta-Antawn Jamison-Howard, which is plus-20, and it's confusing to think about the Lakers keeping Gasol beyond this season.
They're not getting the most value that they can possibly get out of Gasol—that much is clear. When they bow out of the season a few months from now, it only makes sense to explore other options, potentially save some money and get ready for their future with Dwight Howard.
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