Pau Gasol reacts to a call by the officials during a loss to the Indiana Pacers,… (Harry How / Getty Images )
Pau Gasol will remain a starter when the tendinitis in his knees subsides to the point that he can play again.
For the time being.
Subject to change.
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said he wanted to see how the power forward and injured point guard Steve Nash play together before making any adjustments to his lineup.
"I'm not going to mess with Pau," D'Antoni said Sunday, alluding the possibility of bringing the four-time All-Star off the bench. "He's too important to the team and he's earned it and he's too good of a player to even go there yet. That would be a last-resort kind of [thing], desperate."
Then again . . .
"If you lose, then you always try something," D'Antoni said. "So I don't want to ever say, 'No, I'm not going to do that.' But at the same time, I don't have any intentions to do it. I don't think we should do it."
Gasol has averaged 12.6 points and has shot 42%, on pace for career lows in both statistics and leading D'Antoni to bench him in the fourth quarter of two games. D'Antoni said part of Gasol's ineffectiveness could be tied to deficiencies in the Lakers' offensive scheme.
"There's times when we're not exploiting him, where he should be and what he's doing and everything," D'Antoni said. "So it's a little bit out of kilter and until we get it all straight and balanced then I really can't make a decision or he can't feel comfortable."
Gasol sat out a fourth consecutive game Sunday as he continued to rest his knees. D'Antoni said Gasol's status would be re-evaluated before the Lakers start a four-game trip Tuesday in Cleveland.
"Probably into Cleveland or someplace he'll start moving a little bit," D'Antoni said, "and if the pain is less or very little, then he'll play."
See you later
Nash could be nearing a return.
Well, maybe not.
Several hours after saying it was "possible" that Nash would play on the upcoming trip, D'Antoni reversed his field.
"That's probably not going to happen," D'Antoni said later.
What had changed? Nothing besides D'Antoni's reining in his unrealistic hopes.
"That was just me talking and probably talking too much," D'Antoni said. "I wanted Steve to come back last week in my mind. But he's got a timetable and he's not running yet, so there's no way he's going to play right now.
"It's going to be a little bit. But hopefully we're closer to the end than the beginning. I'll always want him to play, even on one leg, but that's not fair."
Nash has missed 19 games because of a small fracture in his left leg. He continues to progress slowly in his recovery, completing resistance exercises Sunday in which a trainer pushed on his chest while he walked briskly. He also shot free throws.
Lack of ball movement, poor spacing and "bully-type basketball" are among the reasons D'Antoni cited for an offense that entered Sunday next to last in the NBA in turnovers, averaging 16.1 per game.
Leave it to forward Metta World Peace to come up with an easy solution.
"You just see where we turn the ball over and what's consistent about the ball being turned over," World Peace said, "and you just fix it."