Mike D’Antoni plans to stick with Pau Gasol-Chris Kaman tandem

All the fears that Mike D’Antoni holds regarding a post-oriented lineup unfolded before his very eyes.

Instead of Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman providing an unstoppable one-two tandem as they had always envisioned, the Lakers’ 124-112 loss Tuesday to the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center featured Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol combining for only 21 points on a 10 of 25 clip. Instead of Gasol and Kaman leaning on their versatility and basketball intelligence to offset the lack of floor spacing without a stretch forward, the Lakers offense only stayed alive because of an efficient Nick Young (40 points) and Steve Nash (10 assists). Instead of their height offering enough rim protection to improve the Lakers’ deeply-rooted defensive problems, Kaman and Gasol played a large part in Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge posting 31 points on 12 of 20 shooting and the Trail Blazers punishing their double teams with a 13 of 29 clip.

“We’re pretty slow footed when we’re out there,” D’Antoni said. “That’s the thinking before, and it probably hasn’t changed much.”

Yet, even amid Gasol and Kaman failing to reward D’Antoni’s slow embrace toward starting them after mostly resisting the combination all season, the coach who places a high premium on three-point shooting, guard play and a fast tempo said he will likely stick with the same tandem for Wednesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena.

“It’s hard to do one thing one night and then {change],” D’Antoni said. “You start chasing your tail. We’ll probably stick with it. I’m sure Pau will have a better outing as he gets over his vertigo and stuff. Then we’ll make that decision.”

No doubt, Gasol’s illness that kept him out for the past four games added a wrinkle into this dynamic.

He admittedly felt sluggish and fatigued. Gasol expressed uncertainty whether he will feel well enough to play in Sacramento. He also suggested he returned too early considering he had not gone through a full contact practice, an unrealistic scenario considering the Lakers’ limited practice schedule stems from both a high volume of games and injuries.

But after showing frustration at times this season for their respective roles, Gasol and Kaman mostly blamed themselves for not making the combination work.

Said Gasol: “It’s hard because the players are very alike and the spacing gets affected and the teammates aren’t used to playing with two interior players. With the pick and pop kind of game, we’re kind of in they way of each other. It’ll take some more time to be effective and efficient out there.”

Said Kaman: “We were both hesitant. We didn’t feel a good rhythm out there or feel comfortable. It takes time to develop that. With eight games left, there’s not enough time to figure it out. But that’s up to him and his call. Maybe having more time would be better, but I don’t think it worked very well.”

The poor dynamic showed in different ways.

Kaman settled for too many mid-range jumpers, while Gasol looked passive inside. Kaman struggled contesting jumpers, while Gasol labored fighting in the paint. Without decent floor spacing, a normally prolific Jodie Meeks posted only four points on 2 of 7 shooting. Without a dependable frontcourt, Nash mostly worked his magic to help Young create his own shot. Kaman looked shaky and fatigued stemmed from failing to build a rhythm. Gasol looked shaky and fatigued stemmed from still feeling symptoms with his vertigo.

“We’re going to try to do better than we did tonight,” Gasol said. “We have to be more dominant and understand the spacing better and how to be effective ourselves and make our teammates better at the same time. When we’re on the floor, we should make a positive impact and positive point differential for our team.”


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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