HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Just when you thought the drama in Lakerland would die down a bit, we’ve got another controversial episode to talk about.
That the Lakers lost in Memphis on Friday isn’t that surprising. The Grizzlies are a great team. That L.A. is now 1-2 under Mike D’Antoni isn’t that alarming. It’s a long season and they’re still missing Steve Nash.
But what’s up with Pau Gasol not playing at all in the fourth quarter?
“I was thinking, ‘Well, I’d like to win this game,'” D’Antoni said afterward.
Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News has the story from Memphis…
“That’s not my decision,” Gasol said of his benching. “I’m a professional. When my number is called, I’m out there.
“But it’s something that hasn’t happened to me.”
Gasol’s effort looked eerily similar to his 3-of-10 mark from the field against the Kings, a product of a faulty mid-range jumper and a lack of confidence.
After initially attacking the basket, Gasol took mid-range jumpers and hesitated more on open shots as the game progressed. He shook his head in frustration after his pass toward Darius Morris went out of bounds. Gasol showed a similar reaction when he threw a lob to Howard in the third quarter, only to be called for an offensive foul.
Gasol conceded his conditioning could improve under D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense, but suggested he could shorten up his rotations.
Gasol also argued the Lakers could feature him better.
“All my looks are jump shots,” Gasol said. “I would like to see something to the basket and not just something rolling when Dwight is there.”
Dwight Howard (seven points and four rebounds in 39 minutes) wasn’t any better than Gasol (six points and four rebounds in 27 minutes), but the coach’s post-game comments and the possibility that Gasol can’t play inside in D’Antoni’s offense will surely fuel trade speculation regarding the seven-foot Spaniard.
D’Antoni’s offense is at its best when it has three 3-point shooters on the floor with the point guard (Nash) and center (Howard). Gasol is a very good mid-range shooter, but can’t spread the floor like some other fours around the league.
Obviously, the Lakers have plenty of time to work things out with their current personnel. They still have, arguably, the most talented starting lineup in the league. And their problems over the last two games really start on defense, where they’ve allowed the Kings and Grizzlies to score 115 points per 100 possessions.
But if the drama continues, another shake-up in Lakerland could be inevitable.