The former All-Star forward has been at odds with D’Antoni all season, and now he has been moved to a bench role permanently.
D’Antoni announced the move on Monday prior to the Lakers’ 95-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls, and he said Earl Clark would be taking Gasol’s spot in the starting lineup.
Clark, who was a first-round pick of the Phoenix Suns in 2009, began receiving significant playing in recent weeks because of injuries. Dwight Howard was out with a shoulder injury, and Gasol was recovering from a concussion. Clark has played over 20 minutes in each of the team’s past seven games entering Monday, and his play impressed D’Antoni.
D’Antoni says Clark gives the Lakers “a little bit more bounce to our step.” He also feels the move is good for two reasons; it helps the Lakers play a smaller starting lineup, and it puts Gasol back at the center position.
“We’re better when we’re small,” D’Antoni said, per Kevin Ding of the OC Register. “It also puts Pau in his natural position. He’s one of the best centers in the league.”
Gasol had 15 points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes in his first game as an official reserve. Clark played 35 minutes and had 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Ding points out that Gasol, who makes $19 million, is the No. 9 highest-paid player in the league. And now he’s a reserve on the Lakers.
This move is not a surprise. D’Antoni has been complaining about Gasol since taking over the job in November. The big man’s conditioning was questioned immediately, and he was repeatedly benched at the end of games. We’re speculating here, but we expect to see Gasol moved after the season.