How will Pau Gasol remember the 2012-2013 NBA season? Unless something remarkable happens, he’s not going to look back at it fondly. Posting the lowest numbers of his career while the Los Angeles Lakers are out of the playoff picture at the moment, and Mike D’Antoni deciding to make him a bench player.
Struggling to succeed in the D’Antoni system, built on one big man and four guys spreading the floor, something similar to what Howard was used to in Orlando, and after way too many losses, Gasol was benched for the first time in his career. It wasn’t a secret there wasn’t a happy bone in his body about it.
According to Jim Buss, Mike D’Antoni and Pau Gasol had a sit down of sorts in a restaurant, something of a meeting of the minds, as D’Antoni is trying to see how to handle the Gasol situation. Luckily for him, Dwight Howard is out again, and there’s no question about benching Gasol for the time being, until Howard returns.
According to Gasol, It was an effort on our part to try and come to an understanding, But I don’t think it’s translated to an understanding. Nothing significant has happened; it’s probably even gone a little backwards.
Furthermore, Buss recently said that he was told by D’Antoni that Gasol was happy with his new role on the bench because D’Antoni was saving Gasol’s knees and prolonging his career. Just to remind you, Gasol played at least 37 minutes in the Lakers’ last three games after being sidelines more than once this season due to knee tendinitis.
Gasol loves Los Angeles, loves playing for the Lakers, and still, he has his career and his best interests to think of. The current situation, in the current system, with the current head coach and Dwight Howard on the team, might mean that Gasol is actually hoping to start something new somewhere else.
It would be hard for me to deal with another season like this. Starting fresh is a possibility, yes. I have a certain level of loyalty here, and I’ve been through a lot of great, amazing things. And there have been others that have been hurtful. But that’s life. love the Lakers and Los Angeles, and none of that has changed just because certain things are out of my control.
Gasol felt embarrassed, humiliated even by getting benched. He doesn’t like it, but he can understand it. Knowing that D’Antoni’s systems requires on big man and four others guys spreading the floor, after so many losses, a choice had to be made – Dwight or Pau. Gasol understands that Howard, not him, is more essential in the eyes of the people running the team to the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.
They try to decide how I can be productive in this mix, while I know I’m not going to be in position to do what I do best and help us win more games. It’s frustrating, but it’s not going to stop me from playing as hard as I can in whatever role. It hurts me that this unique opportunity we have with such good players is not being maximized.
Gasol, on the outside, isn’t directing his blame towards Dwight Howard. He mentioned to the LaTimes that he feels D’Antoni is messing with his season, not his career. He’s been through too much, done enough to not let a season in which he’s averaging 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds ruin a decade of NBA titles and great basketball. He just wishes he was used differently. He thinks it will benefit the Lakers as well.
In a perfect world I’d love to see us dominating as an interior couple, thereby making everything easier for our teammates. Nothing is going to change, but I have no doubt we could coexist and dominate every single game. I believe 100% if I was starting inside with Dwight we could make the playoffs. I just don’t know if coming off the bench gives the team a chance to be better and win more games.
Gasol might not be around long enough to see it happen. The Lakers insist no trades are happening until the deadline; the team they built will be the team that tries to clear up the mess and somehow make the postseason, with Howard in the lineup when his shoulder is OK and Gasol on the bench. Next season? Pau Gasol was almost traded for Chris Paul once. With his trade value dropping and his contract running out at the end of next season, don’t be surprised to see Gasol wearing a different jersey, not one saying ‘Lakers’ on it, after this season is over.