Tensions are running high with the Los Angeles Lakers having lost 26 of their last 32 games, and the team's most recent stretch of three straight losses has head coach Mike D'Antoni and Pau Gasol at odds. Again.
"That's why you have to be disciplined and implement discipline, that's how you kind of make that better or make that not a factor," Gasol said of the Lakers following Tuesday's loss to the Indiana Pacers, via ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin. "I don't think there's a lot of discipline right now."
Gasol's comments were a not-so-subtle shot at D'Antoni, whose small-ball principles and minutes distribution have begun to aggravate the 7-footer. Naturally, D'Antoni took exception to Gasol's criticism, prompting him to respond before Los Angeles' loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
"The thing I just don't appreciate...You just keep it in-house," he said, via McMenamin.
Indeed, airing out dirty laundry for everyone to see is bad press. While Gasol's concerns were legitimate and correct, the way in which he delivered his message wasn't exactly acceptable.
For all those arguing D'Antoni should practice what he preaches, you're only half-right.
D'Antoni shouldn't be using the media as his own personal carrier pigeon. In this instance, however, he's responding to groundwork Gasol already laid. His comments also came on the heels of a meeting with the team, per McMenamin, so calling him a hypocrite would be unfair.
"But to go to (the media) and to do it in the papers, that's disturbing," D'Antoni continued. "I just don't think that's the way to go and people should understand that we're all trying to solve the same problem, so let's just put our heads together and do the best we can."
The Lakers are in an interesting predicament for the rest of this season. Playoffs are clearly out the question, which makes the remaining 24 games all about talent evaluation.
Ten of Los Angeles' current players are projected to hit free agency this season, including Gasol. Two more—swingman Nick Young and point guard Kendall Marshall—hold player or team options, leaving the Lakers with plenty of decisions to make.
But it also risks the Lakers becoming a stepping stone to a player's next destination.
Players like newly acquired 2-guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, among others, are going to use their time in Los Angeles as an audition, an opportunity to showcase their talents in hopes of landing another contract in Tinseltown or elsewhere.
"Anytime you step on the floor, it’s an audition," admitted Bazemore, per the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina. "There’s probably a lot of teams watching."
Such mindsets pave the way for me-first dynamics, where the ambitions of an individual take precedence over the needs of an entire team. That's clearly what had Gasol up in arms while he was lamenting the absence of a concrete rotation.
As the unquestioned leader of a team missing Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, though, it would be more constructive to see him working with D'Antoni, not against him. Maintaining order and control in these situations is difficult, and seeing the head coach at odds with his most talented (healthy) player isn't going to help things.
"To me, it wasn't that big of a deal," Gasol said of his previous comments, via McMenamin. "It was just the emotions and the frustrations of a tough loss and a bad game on our part, I think, for the most part."
Just as D'Antoni must find a way to keep the tanking Lakers in line through excessive losing, Gasol must keep his emotions in check, lest the culture he's trying to improve get even worse.
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