Lakers big man Pau Gasol is averaging 12.6 points and shooting only 42% this… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
As noted by The Times' Mike Bresnahan, the Lakers are "debating whether to bring Pau Gasol off the bench when he returns from knee tendinitis."
There's no question the team's forward/center and former All-Star has struggled to fit alongside Dwight Howard. Gasol has admitted multiple times that he's more comfortable closer to the basket, but that's where the Lakers have Howard positioned.
Gasol does need to play stretches at center. That's where he'll flourish but coming off the bench doesn't achieve that.
Howard has averaged 36.1 minutes a game this season. If Coach Mike D'Antoni trimmed that down to 33, that still leaves only15 minutes for Gasol at center without Howard.
Whether Gasol is starting or coming off the bench, that math doesn't change. If he also plays 33 minutes a game, that leaves 18 minutes to play alongside Howard.
If Gasol belongs on this Lakers' roster, he and Howard need to be productive on the floor together. If not, the team needs to trade him.
The stigma of a benching isn't the way to help rebuild Gasol's confidence. It made sense for Lamar Odom, but then he was playing behind Andrew Bynum and Gasol.
Antawn Jamison may be a better fit next to Howard, but D'Antoni can juggle the rotation to accomplish that. If it's Jamison closing games based on matchup, then so be it.
Gasol is still one of the most-skilled bigs in the league. He deserves better than a benching, especially when it's just not necessary.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.