It seems the cycle stays set on repeat for how Pau Gasol handles his role with the Lakers the past two seasons.
He willingly adapts to changes and plays second (or even third) fiddle for the good of the team. Gasol eventually vents his displeasure that the team hasn’t featured him enough in the offense, namely in the post. The Lakers respond by feeding him the ball. Gasol responds by playing more aggressively. All of this happens with persistent rumors that Gasol’s days with the Lakers are numbered.
That’s why it should be of no surprise that Gasol admitted following Monday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo that he prefers playing in the triangle offense. After all, he appeared in three NBA Finals and won two NBA championships under that system
“It put me in a natural position for me, which was post. I could score and I could pass,” he said. “It was a perfect fit for me when I got here and Andrew [Bynum] was out. I had a lot of minutes and it was a need to cover.”
My, how things have changed.
After the NBA nixed the Chris Paul deal that would’ve sent Gasol to the Houston Rockets, the Lakers forward overwhelmingly stressed his want to stay a Laker. Even if Mike Brown’s offense would feature Andrew Bynum more in the post and push Gasol on the high post as a facilitator. Brown’s Princeton-based system this season was supposed to give Gasol more looks because of more open spacing. That didn’t happen.
“The more complex was probably the Princeton offense,” Gasol said. “Even though the triangle is very rich, the Princeton offense had more options to it. I don’t think in a month and a half we got to 100% of the offense. We got to about 75% of the offense. There were still more things to put in.”
Mike D’Antoni’s system pushes Gasol into a mid-range jump shooter. That’s happened in spurts. All in all, Gasol’s averaging a career-low 13.4 points on 43.4 percent shooting.
“Now it’s a different personnel, different need, different look, different system, different positioning,” Gasol said. “As a professional, you adjust to a different position in your company and try to do your best so the company still finds you a valuable asset and the company still performs as well as it did before.”
Gasol initially struggled. He didn’t have the proper conditioning. In the Lakers first two games of their recent trip, Gasol posted single digits. His play looked so bad that D’Antoni benched him for the entire fourth quarter in favor of a resurgent Antawn Jamsion, who scored a season-high 16 points.
“We’re all trying to get adjusted to the faster pace and running harder to our spots so the spacing’s better, the flow is better,” he said.
Gasol bounced back, though, in the Lakers’ 117-89 win Saturday over the Dallas Mavericks. He scored 13 points on a four-of seven clip, hustled more and played more solid defense, all despite the revelation he’s been playing with tendinitis in both of his knees all season.
“It tells me what I know about him. He’s a great guy. He’s a great competitor. He had a great career and will have continue to have one,” D’Antoni said. “I didn’t have any doubts. It’s just a matter of simplifying and getting everyone to know what we want as coaches and getting all the frustrations out. He did it. I would really be shocked if he responded any way.”
And how will Gasol respond moving forward? Even though he loves the triangle, Gasol sounds willing to embrace and adapt further to meet D’Antoni’s needs.
“This offense will have more stuff to it,” Gasol said. “We’re adding it up little by little, which is a little better for us in order to function collectively on the court. So far, it’s been pretty clear. We just have to adjust and figure things out.”
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