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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

Pau Gasol: ‘I’m a beast’

Pau Gasol is often criticized for being soft, but the Spanish forward says he’s ready to flex his muscles and show some toughness at the Olympics.

“I’m a beast,” Gasol told Reuters on Thursday. “Yeah, I feel pretty good. I feel strong.”

Gasol was the flag bearer for Spain during the opening ceremony in London on Friday. He led his team with 19 points in a 100-78 exhibition game loss to the US on Tuesday and is looking forward to redemption against the US after losing the gold medal game at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Gasol will be a more integral part of the Spanish team than he is with the Lakers.

“My role is definitely different here,” he said. “I’m the guy that everybody counts on and everything kind of revolves around my play and I take a lot of pride in leading this team in different ways.

“It’s not about just scoring. I’ve been a part of this team for 11 years now. My role is definitely different than what it is with the Lakers.”

Pau will need to be in beast mode to have Spain contend for the gold medal, especially after the motivation his brother provided the US with his disparaging comments earlier in the week.

Kobe Bryant: Pau Gasol will be a Laker as long as I am

Things in Lakerland appear to be brightening up. Keystone Light connoisseur Steve Nash is now handling the point. It’s apparently still not out of the question for Dwight Howard to join the team. And now Kobe Bryant is lending his support behind the beleaguered Pau Gasol.

After a markedly disappointing regular season and playoffs, Gasol became the scapegoat by many for the Lakers’ struggles. And it was Kobe who targeted Gasol with criticism more than once in the postseason. And with trade chatter continuing to surround the Spaniard, the belief was that Kobe was playing at least some part in its existence.

But, speaking to reporters in Spain on Team USA’s pre-Olympic exhibition tour, Kobe tried to put to rest the rumors that he and Gasol have some sort of rocky relationship:

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Timberwolves once again actively pursuing Pau Gasol trade, report says

Pau Gasol teaming with fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio and also Kevin Love? Sounds good to the Timberwolves. But the key now is finding a way to convince those stingy Lakers to pull the trigger. From The AP:

The Wolves’ interest in Gasol has long been rumored, with the highly skilled big man considered an ideal fit for coach Rick Adelman’s corner offense, and the kind of playoff-tested veteran needed on one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. [...]

[I]f they want to bring him in to play alongside Love in the frontcourt, it likely will come at a hefty price. Offering [Derrick] Williams, the second overall pick last season who showed promise and inconsistency in his rookie year, means the Wolves would be giving up on him after just one season. The 21-year-old Williams has plenty of potential to grow into the star that many projected when he entered the draft after his sophomore season at Arizona.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Wolves have reportedly offered Williams to the Lakers in a rumored Gasol swap, as Minnesota’s interest in Gasol apparently goes back to at least a year ago.

As part of their latest run for Gasol, the Timberwolves tried to turn Williams into the Bobcats’ second overall pick in Thursday’s draft, which would have been sent to Los Angeles in a possible Gasol deal. The Lakers had been reported as hoping to move into the top of the draft somehow in hopes of taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG went to the Bobcats with that second pick.

However, the Lakers, for better or worse, reportedly expect to see an established, veteran player additionally sent along in any Gasol trade. The Timberwolves have a few players who fit that bill (namely J.J. Barea), but it’s unclear what type of interest the Lakers have in any of them.

Minnesota thinks it can make the moves necessary to maneuver its cap figures around for Gasol. But even before then, it still sounds like the Wolves have their work cut out for them.

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE