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Mike D’Antoni: I was wrong about Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol

Mike D’Antoni was extraordinarily harsh on Pau Gasol when he took over the job as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in November, but he’s finally softening his stance on the big man.

Gasol returned to the starting lineup on March 25 after missing six weeks with a foot injury. The team has gone 8-2 in its last 10 games — all of which Gasol has played over 30 minutes. Save Sunday’s win over the Spurs, Gasol has been shooting the ball extremely well. He has also been posting great rebound totals (9.7 per game in that span), and averaging 5.6 assists per game over his last 10 contests. His production has not come at the expense of the team’s other big man, Dwight Howard. Howard has routinely shot over 60 percent, grabbed double-digit rebounds and scored over 20 points in recent games.

“I’ve come to realize that we can play with the two big guys,” D’Antoni said in reference to Gasol and Howard while speaking with the media on Tuesday. “I was a little skeptical at first. I think with both of them being close to 100 percent, yeah, they can play together easily. I kind of had a preconceived notion that probably wasn’t right.”

It’s better that D’Antoni made his discovery before it was too late. I honestly thought he was crazy when he was benching Gasol for Earl Clark.

The funny thing is that Howard says nothing is different now from how it was before.

“Nothing has changed,” said Dwight Howard. “We can play together. That’s why they brought us here — so we could play together.”

Though Howard didn’t say it, the big difference is probably the health of the players. Gasol’s conditioning was in question when D’Antoni took over, and D’Antoni was blunt about benching the Spaniard. Maybe the reason Gasol didn’t look so good was because of his knee and foot problems at the time, which have likely improved. We know based on his improved play that Howard is recovering from offseason back surgery.

Maybe the Lakers were not poorly constructed this whole time. Maybe they just were not healthy.

Photo credit: Matthew Emmons, US Presswire

Kobe Bryant crops out Pau Gasol’s head in great Instagram picture

Kobe Bryant Pau Gasol Instagram

Now that Kobe Bryant has some time on his hands, he’s decided to explore the Instagram world. But, like anyone trying out a new technology, he’s experienced a few hitches. Let’s just say he’s still getting his photo cropping skills down.

“Mi hermano Pau came by and chilled wit with me for a few hrs. We laughed and joked and talked strategy…,” wrote as his caption to the photo.

A few minutes after sharing the photo, Bryant realized his error.

“Here’s a better pic! Lol still learning how to work this damn thing ha!”

Here’s the corrected picture:

[Read more...]

Pau Gasol unhappy with fourth-quarter benching against Hornets

Earlier this week, Pau Gasol made it clear that he does not like coming off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers but insisted he will not become a distraction by complaining about it. After hearing the comments he made following L.A.’s win over the New Orleans Hornets Tuesday night, you have to wonder how long that will last.

Gasol was benched in the fourth quarter of the 111-106 victory. It was the Lakers third win in a row after losing 10 of their previous 12 games, so now would seem like an inappropriate time for anyone to complain. Gasol still decided to vent.

“I’m a competitor, I’m a guy that thinks I bring a lot to the table, and not being on the floor is something that I don’t like, I don’t appreciate,” he told reporters, via ESPNLosAngeles.com. “It’s a challenge. We’re challenged every day, and I’m challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words.”

Simply put, the Lakers need to stick with what is working. Gasol has been one of the best big men in the league for a number of years, so you can understand why he feels that the team should value him enough to give him more minutes. He recently expressed a desire to be on the floor during crunch time, and he sounded irritated by having to watch his team pull out a close victory from the bench on Tuesday.

“It’s fun to win but when a team comes back on you the way the Hornets did tonight and you are not there as a high-quality player and as a competitor, it’s frustrating,” Gasol explained.

Again, the Lakers won. The Hornets may have come back, but a win is a win. L.A. has pulled its record to 20-25 and it still fighting for a playoff spot. If the wins keep coming with Gasol playing less minutes, the approach needs to remain the same. If Gasol really cared about winning, he wouldn’t question his role with the team during a three-game win streak.

Pau Gasol says he does not like coming off bench but won’t request a trade

The Los Angeles Lakers have finally managed to string together a couple of victories, and they have done so with Pau Gasol coming off the bench. Gasol was very effective in wins over the Utah Jazz on Friday and Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, scoring a combined 31 points and hitting an impressive 14 of 18 shots from the field. Does that mean the 7-footer is happy? Not exactly.

Gasol seems like he is willing to accept his bench role as long as the Lakers are winning. At the very least, he is not planning to request a trade.

“Not right now,” Gasol told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com when asked if he would seek a trade before the Feb. 21 deadline. “I don’t think now is the time for that step to happen. Right now I’m very focused and committed to our team.

“It’s a difficult situation that we’ve been dealing with here. The last few games have been great, and we’re staying positive and we look forward to that to continue. But at the same time, we don’t need any other distractions, any more negativity. We need positive embracing, we need focus, we need to support each other. That’s where we’re at and that’s where I’m at, too.”

It would be incredibly premature to say that the Lakers have turned things around, but Gasol is right that the team does not need any distractions. L.A. could still field offers for Gasol, but he has been banged up as of late and will earn nearly $20 million next season, making him an unattractive trade piece.

“I’ve been on this team, in this city, for six years,” he said. “It’s very hard to stick around on this team, and I take pride in that. I think I’m a valuable asset and I want my role to be as big as it can be, within the well being of the team. But I don’t know if being a player that comes off the bench will be something that I’ll be able to accept long term.”

There has been some debate about whether or not Gasol is a good fit for D’Antoni’s offense all season long, but L.A. has undergone a transformation. Kobe Bryant has been running the point the last couple of games, and at the moment it seems to be working. Perhaps Gasol will earn a larger role down the stretch, but for now D’Antoni has no choice but to stick with what’s working.

H/T Pro Basketball Talk

Lakers bench Pau Gasol for Earl Clark

The biggest loser in the Lakers’ decision to hire Mike D’Antoni is Pau Gasol.

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.

Ricky Rubio feels the Lakers are mistreating Pau Gasol

Ricky-Rubio-Pau-GasolAdd Ricky Rubio to the growing list of people who feel like the Los Angeles Lakers are not getting the most out of Pau Gasol this season. Since Mike D’Antoni took over in L.A. several weeks ago, there have been questions about whether or not Gasol is a fit in his offense. Rubio feels as though Gasol has given the team plenty and is not seeing any reciprocation.

“Pau Gasol has given the Lakers a lot and I don’t feel he’s getting enough in return, especially as far as confidence,” Rubio said earlier this according to HoopsHype. “But he’s a pro. If he goes to another team, I think he would make a contender out of that team. Wherever he goes, he’s going to be fighting for the title.”

After his first game back from injury on Tuesday, Gasol expressed disappointment in having to watch the final two minutes or so of his team’s win over the Charlotte Bobcats from the bench. There have been questions about the big man’s conditioning, as D’Antoni’s offense requires a lot more running than he may have been used to.

Therein lies the problem, according to critics like Magic Johnson. Magic recently said he feels that having Pau on the perimeter and not in the post is a waste for the Lakers, and many others have expressed a similar opinion. Regardless of what Steve Nash may have been promised, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gasol doesn’t make it through the entire season in L.A.

Chest bump to Hoops World

Pau Gasol was upset about sitting out late in Lakers game

The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to get back to their winning ways. Actually, they’re just looking to find the way in general with their new and supposedly improved squad. L.A. has won three straight and should receive a major boost with Pau Gasol having returned from injury on Tuesday night during a 101-100 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

Gasol played 29 minutes after missing eight games, and the big man did not think it was enough. He had to watch the final 2:36 from the bench as his teammates snuck out a win.

“Hopefully it won’t happen too often,” Gasol said. “When the game is on the line, I need to be on the court. That’s what I get paid to do.”

Gasol scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds during his limited minutes, but he was 3-for-10 from the field. He missed some open jumpers and showed some expected signs of rust, and head coach Mike D’Antoni said he could tell the 7-footer was getting fatigued down the stretch.

“I’m happy for Pau, it’s his first time back, the first five-eight minutes of each half he was really good, then he kind of went downhill when he got tired,” D’Antoni explained.

The important thing is the Lakers picked up a win, so in the long run D’Antoni did his job. Resting a player who just returned from injury toward the end of the game is something a number of coaches would have done. It’s understandable that Gasol wanted to be in the game because of his competitive nature, but it’s a long season. Once Gasol returns to full strength, then people can start worrying about his minutes and the way he is being used.