Prior to last season, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the better offensive teams in the NBA. Then they got Dwight Howard. The Lakers were the preseason favorite to win the Western Conference, but things went south in a hurry. Part of the reason for that was they couldn’t score.
During a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, Mike D’Antoni acknowledged the issue of having to run his offense through Howard when the team had been so fluid running it through Pau Gasol in previous seasons. D’Antoni basically admitted he had no choice.
“It was very uncomfortable,” he said. “I knew I was messing on (Gasol) last year. That’s not fair to him. But that was the situation we were in. How do we make the best of it? I was just trying to make the best of it. But no, it wasn’t fair to him.
“I think it was all (politics). It was all that. We wouldn’t do that (normally). If nobody had names on their jerseys, and we were just playing? You go through Pau. There’s not a question. No question.”
Gasol was relegated to a bench role last season before D’Antoni finally admitted that he was wrong to not play both Gasol and Howard. He initially thought his offense would not work with two big men, but it turned out to be more effective when Gasol was on the floor. Even Kobe Bryant sent out some tweets while he was injured about how his team needed to put Gasol in the post and feed him the ball.
The air between D’Antoni and Gasol is supposedly cleared, and Gasol will need to be the player he was before the Howard era if LA wants to stand any chance this season.
“I definitely believe I can do it,” Gasol said. “I know it. I bounced back really well. The procedure went well, my tendons are a lot healthier now than they were before. I have a lot more healthy tissue that regenerated well. I worked hard during the summer to be in the position that I’m in today, and I look forward to just to going out there and doing what I know best.”
With Kobe coming back from a torn Achilles’ and Steve Nash nursing a number of injuries, Gasol could be the go-to guy in the early part of the season.