The Los Angeles Lakers seem to be the only ones who didn’t receive the memo earlier this season about how they’re supposed to be bad. With a five game losing streak threatening to become something of the norm this season, the popular opinion right now among players, Mike D’Antoni and the front office is to blame Pau Gasol for not trying hard enough.
Gasol, the 7th highest paid player in the NBA, decided on his own that he’s not fit enough to play in the 111-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers actually got a solid 18 points and 13 rebounds from Jordan Hill playing on his own in the paint, but with Kobe Bryant doing whatever he can to get back on the floor, and the same going for Steve Blake and Steve Nash, Gasol’s perceived indifference has gotten on a few people’s nerves.
Not that the Lakers and especially the head coach have made him feel especially welcome. The biggest problem for the Lakers this season, aside from the West being too loaded and the injuries that have been hurting them, is that this team was built without a clear goal in mind? Make the playoffs? That suits some fans and players, but not everyone. Tanking? Maybe, but no one is declaring that out loud, and it doesn’t seem from the minutes given to players that anyone is actually trying to lose games on purpose at the moment.
However, the Lakers’ indecision about where this season is going seems to be hurting Gasol more than anyone else. For a second straight season, one of the best big men from the previous decade is stuck in a system that’s wrong for him. Like it or not, at some point it’s going to hurt more than just his numbers, with the frustration leading to his effort being well below the expected level. It seems as if Gasol and D’Antoni don’t actually talk to each other, but convey messages through the media to each other. D’Antoni has done everything but call Gasol soft, while Gasol himself has pretty much openly criticized the way he’s being used.
So it seems the Lakers are stuck. There’s hardly any actual player development going on, because most or even all of the guys on the team this season won’t be here once the summer arrives. Nick Young is playing well most of the time, exciting the crowd and averaging 21.2 points over the last five games, but he also pulled off a 6-of-21 shooting night, reminding many of Kobe Bryant at his worst.
The 76ers are an example of a team that didn’t let a 3-0 start to the season change their mind. They’re in it for the long run, knowing that this season isn’t going to get them anywhere. Player development for the rookies and young ones while trading away everyone else. The Lakers simply improvised with their limited cap space, doing quite well with some signings. However, no matter how this year ends, it’ll be a wasted season that didn’t help them in any way prepare for a better future.