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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.

Magic Johnson: Lakers are misusing Pau Gasol, who needs to be in the post

The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling mightily. They have lost eight of their last 11 games and look to be getting worse by the day — particularly on defense late in games. Pau Gasol has been sidelined with a knee injury and has missed the last five games. Magic Johnson believes the absence of Gasol has been a major factor and that the team needs to use him differently when he returns.

“Gasol, to me, is the key to this whole thing,” Johnson said Tuesday according to the LA Times. “But if you continue to have him at the three-point line, he’s not going to perform well because he hasn’t been out there, especially with Phil Jackson and the Lakers (and) when he was playing in Memphis. He was down low.”

Mike D’Antoni had been using Gasol on the perimeter in many situations when he was healthy, and Gasol made it no secret that he was unhappy with his role. Johnson said D’Antoni needs to ask Gasol where he feels most comfortable playing and put him there.

“You got to find a way to get Gasol going,” Magic said. “If I’m D’Antoni, you know what’s the first thing I would do when I got the job? ‘Where do you like it?’ Because that’s where I’m going to give it to him.”

The pressure on D’Antoni is building by the day, which was clear when he snapped at a reporter who was asking about defense following a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. D’Antoni likes to use a certain system, but he may have to adapt that system if he wants it to work for aging superstars and players who are used to doing things a certain way. With a record of 9-13 and no real signs of improvement, it won’t be long before Lakers fans start throttling the panic button.

Steve Nash reportedly received guarantee he would get to play with Pau Gasol

We all know Steve Nash agreed to join the Lakers via a sign-and-trade deal last summer to give himself a shot at capturing his first NBA title. What may come as somewhat of a surprise is how badly he supposedly wanted to play with Pau Gasol. While I’m sure the prospect of playing alongside future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant was exciting, Nash was reportedly given a guarantee Gasol would not be traded.

“Ignore any and all trade talk about Pau Gasol because the Lakers landed Steve Nash by promising him he would get to play with Gasol,” a source reportedly told Comcast’s Ric Bucher. “Nash made it a prerequisite for passing on offers from Toronto and the Knicks that Pau would be around.

“Conceivably, once Nash gets back and actually plays with Gasol, the Lakers could continue to struggle and Nash re-thinks his position. But as of right now, one of the enticements that brought Nash to LA was the big Spaniard and the organization would have much bigger problems than they already have if they backtracked on their promise to keep Gasol in the fold.”

This type of handshake agreement is not unheard of. When Chris Paul agreed to go to the Los Angeles Clippers, he was reportedly given a guarantee that the team would retain restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan, and they held up their end of the deal.

While it would certainly be in the best interest of the Lakers to keep their 38-year-old point guard happy if they want to stop pooping their big boy pants, I doubt they would turn down an enticing offer for Gasol simply to keep their word — especially if the team continues to struggle. Doing what is best in the long-term interest of the team is always the priority.

Mike D’Antoni benched Pau Gasol because he wanted to win the game

While some members of the Los Angeles Lakers may be happy with the hiring of Mike D’Antoni as the team’s head coach, Pau Gasol surely is displeased.

The four-time All-Star has experienced two of his poorest statistical games this season in the last two Lakers contests — both losses. Gasol also found himself on the bench for the entire fourth quarter of the 106-98 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Not only did Gasol deal with that disappointment, but D’Antoni also seemed to insult him after the game.

During his postgame news conference, D’Antoni was asked what he was thinking when he left Pau on the bench in crunch time again. He spared no feelings in his response.

“I was thinking ‘Oh, I’d like to win this game.’ That’s what I was thinking,” D’Antoni said.

Gasol had picked up his fourth foul with just over a minute left in the third quarter when he went to the bench, and he never returned. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he didn’t play an entire fourth quarter.

“That’s not my decision,” Gasol said of his benching, per the LA Daily News. “I’m a professional. When my number is called, I’m out there. But it’s something that hasn’t happened to me.”

He also complained about his role in the offense, saying he wants more looks in the post.

“All my looks are jump shots,” Gasol said, via the LA Times. “I’m not a pure jump shooter. I can stretch the defense out and take a couple jumpers, but how I get going is by getting in the paint and creating off the post and things like that. That’s historically how I’ve been very successful and how I’ve made a very good name for myself and earned my contracts. Hopefully I’ll find a way….”

Gasol’s conditioning came into question after Wednesday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings. He scored eight points in 37 minutes that game. He stats were similarly down on Friday; he had six points in 27 minutes. D’Antoni mentioned the conditioning issue again on Friday, reportedly saying the team needs to “get in a little bit better shape.”

“Guys have got to get used to this pace,” said D’Antoni. “It might take a little bit, but we’re going to run up and down. And if you can’t run up and down and play quickly, then we’ll have to find guys that do.”

D’Antoni has only coached the Lakers during three games this season, but he already is having a big impact. If things don’t begin to change, it looks like Gasol will be the odd man out on this team. Right now he is not a good fit for D’Antoni.

Lakers question Pau Gasol’s conditioning for Mike D’Antoni’s offense

The Los Angeles Lakers appeared to question Pau Gasol’s conditioning after the forward struggled in a 113-97 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

Gasol had just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting in 37 minutes, and Kobe Bryant specifically questioned his teammate’s shape.

“Pau is used to laboring up the floor and coasting a little bit,” Kobe Bryant said, via the LA Daily News. “In this offense, we have to put the motor on the first few steps we move up the court.”

The Daily News notes that Gasol was beat by Kings center DeMarcus Cousins on back-to-back plays in the second quarter. They say coach Mike D’Antoni even hinted at a conditioning issue.

“Pau didn’t have his legs,” D’Antoni said after the game.

Gasol didn’t seem to think his conditioning is a problem. He seemed to think he just needs to adjust to the new coach’s system.

“I don’t know if it’s extremely physically demanding.” Gasol said. “It’s an offense that you have to move and have to be on the go and get to your spots run to your spots and find some good flow out there that we really haven’t reached consistently. The offense will evolve and will be better.”

The good news for the Lakers is that they’re only 12 games into the season and, at 6-6, they still have plenty of time to pull it together. The early signs point to the Lakers’ perimeter players doing more of the offensive work than their front court. They also might need to work more guys into the rotation to keep their players fresh.

Photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE