As the Lakers mounted a furious rally to hold off a 111-106 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Hornets that they should’ve secured much earlier, there was one lone player showing a sense of isolation and disappointment.
Pau Gasol vowed time and time again he wouldn’t let a demoted bench role bother him so much that he’d gripe about it instead of helping the Lakers climb out of this rut in the Western Conference. Instead, Gasol pledged he’d make the best of a bench role that featured his post presence instead of a facilitator along the perimeter.
But this seemed different.
Gasol missed the entire fourth quarter after posing seven points on 1 of 4 shooting, seven assists and seven rebounds, an element he touted as more significant than if he actually starts in the game.
“I’m a competitor and think I bring a lot to the table,” Gasol said. “It’s something I don’t like and don’t appreciate.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni had a fairly vague explanation.
“I couldn’t get Pau back in there,” he said, “because of what the line up was.”
But the game revealed everything.
Lakers forward Earl Clark posted 20 points, shot a career-high 4 of 5 from three-point range and converted on a layup that gave the tream a 107-104 lead with 32.8 seconds remaining. But that doesn’t account for Antawn Jamison playing in 24 minutes, his 16 points offset by a flurry of blown defensive assignments. That doesn’t account for Metta World Peace sitting the entire fourth quarter after going 1 of 8 from the field.
“I thought he had a tough night,” D’Antonu said of World Peace, “and Antawn was playing well and they had guys Antawn could guard.”
That really wasn’t the case.
Regardless, World Peace sat on the bench engaged into the game while cheering on his teammates. World Peace also didn’t talk to reporters, perhaps because he didn’t want to bring attention to the story. Gasol sat with an emotionless expression and showing little reaction to everything happening on the court. He then made it clear that he’s struggling in maintaining the big picture perspective.
“It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge every day,” Gasol said. “I’m challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org