Mike D’Antoni fires back at Pau Gasol; Lakers hold meeting to clear the air

Pau-Gasol-Steve-Nash-LakersPau Gasol has not been happy with Mike D’Antoni’s offense since D’Antoni became the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Gasol wants the ball in the post. He has been most effective during his career when he can post defenders up and work around the basket, but D’Antoni runs an offense that is not always conducive to that type of play. Gasol complained about that once again earlier this week.

“The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” he told Bill Plaschke of the LA Times. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity.”

Gasol has played poorly since D’Antoni took over. He does not think that is a coincidence. When asked specifically if D’Antoni’s coaching style and system are the reasons his production has dipped, Gasol was very blunt.

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Mike D’Antoni admits he felt pressure to run offense through Dwight Howard, not Pau Gasol

Pau-Gasol-Steve-Nash-LakersPrior 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.

H/T Pro Basketball Talk

Pau Gasol concerned about Steve Nash’s health

Steve Nash LakersLos Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash has been battling injuries throughout the offseason, the latest of which is neck discomfort. He was held out of the second half of LA’s preseason game against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night. The Lakers’ bench has looked solid, and the addition of Nick Young should help the team’s backcourt. However, Nash is a veteran who is expected to be the quarterback of Mike D’Antoni’s offense.

Very few people expect the Lakers to make a deep playoff run this season, but you can never count out a team that is led by Kobe Bryant. That being said, Nash will turn 40 this season and seems to be having trouble staying healthy. Even teammate Pau Gasol expressed concern.

I don’t see why Nash would be pushing himself in practice if he was hurt, although the fact that Gasol is openly concerned is certainly somewhat alarming. The Lakers are going to have to get healthier as the season progresses. With Nash, Bryant and Gasol turning 40, 36, and 34 — respectively next season, that will be no easy task.

Alex Morgan was stoked to meet Pau Gasol at the Olympics

Alex MorganAlex Morgan is one of the most famous female soccer players in the world. Most people would be super excited to meet her and consider that a dream. But even though she’s famous and one of the best soccer players in the world, she’s still a fan of some pro teams and athletes and can become a fan girl at times. Morgan says that happened to her at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Morgan did an “AMA” Q&A session for Reddit on Monday when the subject came up.

Morgan was asked by a Reddit user “What celeb were you most surprised to meet or that recognized you?”

“I was really excited to meet Pau Gasol because I’m a big Lakers fan. I saw him in the cafeteria at the Olympics,” she answered.

Can you imagine that? A beautiful girl like Morgan going up to a gangly, kind of awkward Spanish basketball player and being all excited because she’s a big Lakers fan? What a sight that would have been. That should have been all Gasol’s honor.

Now you probably figure Morgan would have been most excited to meet Kobe Bryant, but they actually met at a charity soccer game in 2011. Morgan, by the way, is from Diamond Bar, Calif., which is about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, where the Lakers play, which explains her ties to the team. Pau Gasol, celebrity among celebrities. Hopefully he didn’t make a Robert Griffin III mistake when he met her.

Pau Gasol would ‘probably not’ take a pay cut to stay with Los Angeles Lakers

kevin-love-pau-gasolPau Gasol is entering the final season of his three-year, $60 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. If he hits free agency following the 2013-2014 season, he will be doing so as a 34-year-old veteran who has recently battled knee problems. If Gasol and Kobe Bryant — whose contract is also set to expire after the upcoming season — agree to return to LA at a team-friendly price, the Lakers would have salary cap space to work with and could reload for one final championship run.

Don’t expect it to be that easy. Bryant has already stated that he will not take a pay cut just to finish his career with the Lakers. During a recent interview with Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, Gasol said the same.

“If I perform well, am reliable and put up a great season, then I’m sure the Lakers will have interest in extending me maybe before the season is over,” Gasol said. “We’ll see if there’s interest or not. Then we’ll go from there.”

Gasol was then specifically asked if he would consider taking less to remain in LA.

“Probably not,” he said. “You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table.”

Even if Gasol was willing to take a pay cut, admitting it now would only weaken his position. It is worth noting, however, that Gasol was not shy about expressing his displeasure with coming off the bench last season. He was also the center of a number of trade rumors, which may have made him feel that the Lakers do not value him as much as they used to.

Kobe has previously stated that Gasol will remain a Laker as long as Bryant does. While that’s a nice thing of him to say, Kobe won’t be making that final call. Unless, of course, they both leave. Is that a possibility? Naaah.

H/T Ball Don’t Lie

Pau Gasol worried about Lamar Odom

The rumors surrounding Lamar Odom over the past week have surely alarmed many people who are close to him, one of who is his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Pau Gasol. Early Tuesday morning, Gasol sent the following tweet:

Lamar-Odom-Phil-JacksonThe more reports we read, the more it sounds like Odom is in need of serious help. In its initial report, TMZ said Odom began using drugs two years ago after his cousin was murdered and he was involved in a car crash that killed a pedestrian. On Monday, another story from TMZ claimed Odom was using serious drugs while he played for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks.

While we don’t know the exact extent of Odom’s alleged drug use, we do know that there have been rumors that he is hooked on prescription pills and even crack. If that is true and his drug abuse dates back to his days with the Lakers and Mavericks, you would think the league’s drug testing policy would have picked up on it or his teammates would have noticed.

Whether the various reports wind up being true or not, I’m sure Gasol isn’t the only former teammate who is worried about Odom. Between the rumors about hardcore drugs and the incident where he blew up on the paparazzi, it seems obvious Odom could use some sort of help.

Pau Gasol receives applause in possibly last game with Lakers (Video)

Pau Gasol cryingPau Gasol received a nice ovation from Lakers fans as he exited what might be his final game with the team.

Gasol left the Lakers’ 103-82 series-ending loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 4 on Sunday with under three minutes in the contest. As he exited, he received an applause and special recognition from the Los Angeles fans. Gasol became emotional and later appeared to have tears in his eyes.

Gasol was traded to the Lakers in the middle of the 2007-2008 season and helped the team reach the finals three times. They lost to the Boston Celtics in 2008, but they won the title the next two years.

This season, Gasol battled knee and foot problems and had his least impressive statistical season since joining the team. He only played in 49 games and started 42 of them.

There has been speculation that Gasol, who is due $19.28 million next season, could be released by the Lakers via the amnesty clause. We wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not back with the team next season.