DALLAS — For the second consecutive night, Pau Gasol sat the entire fourth quarter. This time the Los Angeles Lakers power forward was good with it as “Showtime” finally made an eagerly awaited appearance at the expense of the flat-footed Dallas Mavericks.
“Obviously, that’s exactly the situation you want to find yourself in when the game is put away and the starters can rest in the fourth,” Gasol said after the Lakers’ 115-89 Saturday night demolition in a game that was never remotely competitive. “That’s the ideal, and the right way when you want to rest in the fourth.”
The wrong way is apparently being benched in a big game and then to have your new coach, on the bench for all of three games, say he did it to give the team a chance to win. That’s exactly the explanation Mike D’Antoni gave for sitting Gasol late in the third quarter of Friday’s loss at Memphis, and never putting the 7-footer back on the floor.
Even Phil Jackson, as best Gasol can recall, never publicly ripped him right from the jump.
“I don’t know if it was right at the jump, but once [Jackson] got comfortable he could do that. He could do anything he wanted, to be honest,” Gasol said. “So yeah, he knew a couple things that bothered me, and he knew how to get under my skin a little bit.”
D’Antoni said he didn’t try to “disrespect” Gasol, who had six points, missed five of his eight shot attempts and had four boards in 27 minutes before getting the hook. Nor did D’Antoni find it necessary to have a morning chat with Gasol, frustrated by his shot selection in the new offense, to clear any brewing smog.
“I’m starting to know him,” Gasol said of D’Antoni. “It’s not that I pay attention to interviews and what’s said and what’s not being said after games or stuff like that or to the media, but if that’s the way he does things, so be it. Everyone has their own style and character and we have to get used to that, too.”
D’Antoni did say prior to Saturday’s game that Gasol is going to have to get used to the fact that when he shares the floor with center Dwight Howard, jumpers are going to be more Gasol’s thing than his preferred low-post, back-to-the-basket maneuverings.
“He’s going to have to adjust his game,” D’Antoni said. “Now, when Dwight goes out and he’s the 5, we want to get him some looks inside. But again, he’s going to start the game off, about eight minutes worth where he’s going to get some jump shots, and he can make them.”
Gasol, who acknowledged he’s been playing with a “pretty bothersome” case of knee tendinitis, rebounded Saturday night with 13 points on just seven attempts, and seven rebounds in 28 minutes. He scored eight points on 3-for-4 shooting in a 65-38 all-Lakers first half.
And he got his shots from a variety of spots.
His first attempt was an open jumper just above the free-throw line with Howard in the game. When Howard sat, Gasol found himself free twice on rolls to the basket, once for a layup and then for free throws, with Kobe Bryant feeding him both times. Gasol ended the first quarter with a pretty, gliding hook shot through the lane, again with Howard on the bench.
Gasol said he realizes, as does Howard, that shot attempts will vary from game to game. Howard, for instance, got 11 shots up Saturday night, equaling his combined attempts in the previous two games.
“Yeah, I’ll find ways, I’ll find ways,” Gasol said of getting more close-range shots. “I just have to be proactive and put myself in positions to do that. We’re in this together. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. It takes a little time to figure things out, another little bit of an adjustment period. It’s still early, this is what just the fourth game that he’s coached?”
Long enough for D’Antoni to send a message one night, and for Gasol to answer back the next.