In hopes to provide clarity to the differences they’ve shared since working together, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni and Pau Gasol recently met.
The Lakers forward has averaged a career-low 12.4 points on 41.3 percent shooting, and has expressed frustration regarding the facilitating role outlined for him under D’Antoni’s system. Gasol also hasn’t sounded pleased with sitting out in crunch time, something that has happened three times this season.
What did the meeting do?
“Maybe just that he understands that I understand,” D’Antoni said. “I think we both understood how important he is. He has to play well for us to be good.”
Gasol returned in the Lakers’ 101-100 win Tuesday over the Charlotte Bobcats, his first game since sitting in the past eight because of knee tendinitis. Although he posted 10 points on only three of 10 shooting, Gasol contributed with nine points, five assists and a flurry of well-set screens that set up easy baskets for teammates.
Gasol sat out of the final 2:36, which D’Antoni attributed on his fatigue. But with Gasol sitting out late stretches in three games thus far this season, D”Antoni made it clear that won’t happen again.
“He has to,” D’Antoni said when asked if Gasol will play late in the game.
The rest of Gasol’s role remain unclear.
Gasol wants to play more in the post, a staple that secured two NBA championships with the Lakers and two Olympic gold-medal appearances with his native Spain. But D’Antoni has called for Gasol to play more of a “stretch 4,” which would entail playing the high post, facilitate the offense and shoot mid-range jumpers.
D’Antoni has expressed flexibility in making tweaks to his role, but he didn’t reveal to what extent he will after talking with Gasol.
“I just think it’s important he knows how much I like him and always admired him and think he’s the one of the best if not the best big men with the Lakers,”D’Antoni said. “Having said that, the two weeks off helped him and he’s in better shape. His knees are not bothering him as much and he can get back to being Pau Gasol.”
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