Mike D'Antoni has Pau Gasol's back.
Weird, right? Considering the two have routinely butted heads since D'Antoni took over as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers last season, Magic Mike is one of the last people we would expect to see defending a noticeably absent Gasol.
It was Gasol's decision to sit out as his team extended its season-high losing streak to five with a 111-104 defeat to Philly. It's not like he has been bedridden or completely unable to exert himself physically. According to a team source, Gasol still showed up to Lakers shootaround to lift weights Sunday, and when he told longtime trainer Gary Vitti he wanted more time to get over the infection and was not going to play against the Sixers, Vitti said to not even bother showing up to the game.
D'Antoni took exception such comments, per Lakers.com's Mike Trudell:
1/2 - D'Antoni asked about his thoughts on Gasol missing games w/t illness and some around the team potentially being concerned about it...— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 30, 2013
2/2: D'Antoni answer: "It's very unfortunate a teammate would think that much less say it in the media. That's not right. Pau was sick."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 30, 2013
He also dismissed the notion that Gasol was milking his illness, via the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina:
Mike D'Antoni dismissed the notion that Pau Gasol could've played earlier— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 30, 2013
After missing the last two games with an upper respiratory infection, though, the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan writes that Gasol's return is considered imminent:
D'Antoni didn't want anyone questioning Gasol's ailment, saying crisply: "Pau was sick, he's getting better now + he'll be ready tomorrow."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 30, 2013
The Lakers even provided a picture of Gasol taking reps at practice:
But while Gasol figures to be ready for Los Angeles' next game against the Milwaukee Bucks, was it completely necessary for him to sit out against Philly?
Gasol apparently showed up to lift weights before the Lakers faced the Sixers, and his decision to sit thereafter is questionable at best, something Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding tackles head-on:
Last thing on Pau: He went through a full practice this morning and he couldn't play at all last night?!— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) December 30, 2013
Is it possible Gasol could've played? Yes. Is it possible he needed another game off? Again, yes.
Should it really matter? Eh.
Flaking on your teammates isn't respectable practice, but D'Antoni doesn't believe that's what Gasol was doing. This should also (theoretically) be a point in time where Gasol can have extra rest.
Should Gasol have played against the Sixers?
Next-man-up syndrome also comes into play here, though.
Depleted by inures, the Lakers are already without Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and Steve Nash. Xavier Henry also suffered a knee injury against Philly. Now more than ever, they need all available bodies, and if Gasol could have played, he should have played.
He was obligated to play.
"I tried to play through as much as I can ... I was getting killed by not performing," Gasol said, per Medina.
None of this should matter once Gasol's officially back. There are plenty other things the Lakers must worry about, least of all an upper respiratory infection witch hunt blown out of proportion.