When you’re a career starter like Pau Gasol is, getting to start on the bench not for health reasons is quite a shock, maybe even a serious game changer. While Mike D’Antoni is trying to do whatever he can to get the Los Angeles Lakers back on some sort of winning track, Gasol looks closer to a trade than ever.
The idea of turning Gasol into a sixth man isn’t such a bad one. Earl Clark has been giving some good minutes at the 4 position, putting up 10.2 points and 9.4 rebounds in the last five games. He’s also much more suited, offensively, to the system D’Antoni is running, as long as Bryant doesn’t change his plans in the middle, unannounced.
Gasol coming off the bench and not playing next to Dwight Howard hurts the Lakers defensively which wasn’t their strong suit to begin with, but brings the Spaniard back to life as a low post player, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds on 26 minutes against the Chicago Bulls. It wasn’t the best of games for Gasol, who threw air balls and was caught once again far out of his comfort zone when playing next to Howard, but there were the minutes alongside Antawn Jamison, who’s a much better outside shooter, allowing Gasol to operate in the middle.
This seems like a last attempt from D’Antoni to somehow find a way to fit Gasol in this system: The problem is that Gasol, making $19 million this season and a bit more on the next one, the last on his current contract, might not be so happy starting games on the bench after being a starter in 99% of the games he’s played since arriving in the NBA.
Gasol knows he’s on the trade block, and if the Lakers don’t show significant improvement in the next couple of weeks, meaning getting a lot closer to .500 (17-24 at the moment), the Lakers aren’t going to give up on the season. They’re just going to make one last bold move, the first being signing D’Antoni despite knowing that his system isn’t something that fits with two dominant big men, and send Gasol to a team that might have the pieces to help them somehow save the season. It’s getting less and less likely that anything, including trading Gasol, might help them achieve even the most minimal of goals in this failure of a year.