Mike D'Antoni Refutes Claims That Pau Gasol Exaggerated Illness

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2013

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after being cut near his right eye during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 23, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 117-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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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.

But that's just what D'Antoni did after a source told ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin that Gasol could've played in the team's most recent loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

From McMenamin:

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:

He also dismissed the notion that Gasol was milking his illness, via the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina:

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:

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:

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.

The Utah Jazz and Sixers account for two of the NBA's four worst teams. Looking at the situation before Los Angeles' losses, if there was ever a time for Gasol to sit, it was then. 

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.