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.