Frustrated Pau Gasol Calls Out Mike D'Antoni

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 13, 2013

Jan. 30, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni gestures towards forward Pau Gasol (16) against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the franchise in 2008 and helping raise a pair of championship banners, Pau Gasol has gained a unique understanding for what it means to be a Los Angeles Laker.

There's a certain pride in donning the purple and gold, an expectation for greatness that's been established for decades.

Oh, and there's one other part of the Laker way Gasol gets: When things go sour, blame coach Mike D'Antoni.

For the second straight season, Gasol has seen his production sapped in D'Antoni's perimeter-based system. Last season, he scored a career-worst 13.7 points per game; this year, his field-goal percentage has reached a new basement at 41.7.

Gasol said there's no secret behind his struggles, via Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. His coach just does not know how to use his skills:

The fact that I'm not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness. When I'm not getting the ball where I want to, where I'm most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity. ...

What do you think? I'm not going to say anything, but it's easy to see. You see a guy with a certain skill set, where does it fit better, where it doesn't.

This is probably more of a venting session than it is the start of a change. While it's clear Gasol (career 18.3 points per game on 51.5 percent shooting) has struggled with this system, D'Antoni doesn't sound like he's about to tweak his schemes for the big man.

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"I can't lie to him…our numbers tell us the worst thing we do is post up," the coach said, via Plaschke.

Pau, for his part, doesn't sound like he's ready to hear D'Antoni's criticism, according to Plaschke: "I don't pay attention. Mike is sometimes all over the place, I don't give much credit to things like that."

The numbers don't lie, however. L.A. has been the NBA's worst team on the low block. The Lakers are getting just 0.67 points per possession on post-up plays, via Synergy Sports (subscription required) and shooting only 34.6 percent from the field on those attempts.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27:  Kevin Garnett #2 of the Brooklyn Nets blocks a shot by Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Barclays Center on November 27, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Lakers defeat the Nets
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Of course, D'Antoni hasn't closed the door on these post chances. But he's been adamant that Gasol should find touches on his own instead of waiting for his number to be called.

"He can always move closer to the basket,” D'Antoni said, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “That’s on him. He needs to dive and we need to get the ball into him. He needs to go where he feels comfortable.”

Gasol, a free agent after this season, doesn't have to stay married to this system. If nothing else, it should make him consider all of his options next summer. As NBA.com's Sekou Smith noted, "the long-standing lack of chemistry between Gasol and coach Mike D'Antoni...seems to be what’s pushing Gasol out of L.A."

If Gasol wants to stay with the franchise, this is something he'll have to learn to live with. If the Lakers wouldn't force out D'Antoni for Dwight Howard, can anyone see them doing it for the free-falling Gasol?

It's probably time the big man digs those "big-boy pants" out of his closet.

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