CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A day after questioning Pau Gasol’s work ethic, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni gushed plenty of praise toward the Lakers forward and called him “great.”
The reason for the sudden détente between the pair that Kobe Bryant amusingly described as an “old couple?”
D’Antoni confronted Gasol in a team meeting during morning shootaround Friday before the Lakers played the Oklahoma City Thunder later that night, according to a league source familiar with the details. Gasol then mostly blamed himself following the Lakers’ loss Thursday to Oklahoma City for not playing aggressive enough, criticizing D’Antoni’s system and not diving enough off pick-and-rolls. ESPN Los ANgeles first reported the incident.
“Pau’s great. This isn’t an easy job in the sense that you can get sidetracked,” D’Antoni said. “We just want everybody to be confident, happy and play as hard as they can play. Then we’ll take care of things, adjust things and look at it. If it’s not working, we can do this or do that. But the main thing should be ‘Let me play as hard as we can play.’ If we have problems, we’ll fix it.”
Gasol has had plenty of problems, entering the Lakers’ game Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena averaging 14.4 points on a career-low 42.3 percent shooting. But after Gasol recently lamented that D’Antoni’s offense doesn’t feature him enough in the post, sentiments he expressed last season amid a reduced role because of Dwight Howard’s presence.
During the Lakers’ team meeting, D’Antoni told Gasol that he should express any frustrations directly to him instead of through the media, according to a league source familiar with the discussions. D’Antoni also reiterated his recent message that Gasol could offset his ineffectiveness by simply working harder, the source said.
“There’s a lot that goes into this game psychologically,” D’Antoni said. “Sometimes it takes an airing out. It’s good and we’ll take a step forward.”
The Lakers sensed that after Gasol posted 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting on a series of post-ups, elbow jumpers and pick-and-roll dives.
“We would love that he starts in a pick and roll on a quick dive,” D’Antoni said. “We don’t want him walking and posting up. We want to pick and roll and the ball should go into him in the low post on the move with some kind of advantage. If we do that, we’re doing our job.”
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