With Dwight Howard out, Pau Gasol took advantage of his opportunity to start… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )
MINNEAPOLIS — Pau Gasol was back in the Lakers' starting lineup.
"Big news," he said sarcastically. "Headlines. Exciting."
Please excuse his curbed enthusiasm. His starting gig might last only one game.
Gasol got the call because Dwight Howard flew back to Los Angeles to have a minor procedure on his right shoulder. Howard was listed as day to day by the Lakers and planned to return to the team in time for Sunday's game in Detroit.
Gasol had 22 points and 12 rebounds Friday in the Lakers' 111-100 victory over Minnesota. He also had three blocked shots after coming off the bench the previous six games, the Lakers going 3-3.
It's no secret that Coach Mike D'Antoni prefers faster players in his offense, and Gasol, for all his talents, obviously doesn't qualify as quick.
"Mike's been trying to get his philosophy through to us. At the same time, our personnel is a little different than probably what would fit best for that kind of system," Gasol said. "It's a work in progress."
So is Gasol's season. He was averaging 12.8 points and shooting only 44.8% before Friday, both of which would be career lows if he stayed near those levels.
"It's been a rough, rough season so far. There's no way around it," Gasol said.
He continues to have one fairly important supporter on the team.
Gasol's game Friday was "nothing that Laker fans haven't seen for the past five years," Kobe Bryant said.
"When he's featured, this is what he does. It's not anything that is unexpected. This is the Pau that helped us get back-to-back championships."
Bryant is almost always complimentary of Gasol, mindful that the 7-footer helped create something out of nothing, including three trips to the NBA Finals.
Even Bryant, however, has had to stay on Gasol's case this season, telling him last month to put on his "big-boy pants" after Gasol was benched again in crunch time of a game.
The Lakers don't plan on trading Gasol before the Feb. 21 deadline, but he's cognizant that one phone call could change that.
"If the right package comes along, it's a business at the end of the day," Gasol said. "You can't really think about it too much or worry too much because it's pointless from a player's standpoint."
D'Antoni laughed at Ricky Rubio's comments that the Lakers don't want Gasol because of the way they use him. Rubio, the Timberwolves' point guard, played with Gasol on the Spanish national team.
"Well, when he gets a team that he can coach, then he can make that decision," D'Antoni said.
D'Antoni offered a way for Gasol to get over the disappointment of getting shuffled in and out of the Lakers' starting lineup.
"Pay him $19 million. I think that should help," D'Antoni said, smiling.
Gasol is under contract for $19 million this season and $19.3 million next season.