Pau Gasol drives to the basket against the Charlotte Bobcats on Dec. 18. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers lost to the Clippers, 107-102, Friday night in what might have been Pau Gasol's worst game with the team.
Gasol, in 27 minutes, scored only two points on one-of-six shooting. In a game the Lakers lost by five points, the Clippers outscored the Lakers by 20 when Gasol was on the floor.
While he certainly carries much of the responsibility for his poor performance, some of the lack of output can be attributed to how Gasol is being used by Coach Mike D'Antoni. Just a few games ago, the Lakers were using Gasol to initiate the offense from the elbow, a workable compromise for an All-Star who has spent most of his career scoring in the low post.
In a five-game span Gasol averaged more than five assists a night. Against the Clippers, Gasol was the forgotten man.
"It's difficult sometimes, because it's not up to me to get involved," said Gasol who is happy to play from near the elbow. "I get more involved and I can make more plays from there."
But that's not where the Lakers have gone with purpose over the last two games.
"It's not consistent, so I just try to get a feel for the game," said Gasol. "Some nights it goes one way. Some nights it goes another. It's just hard to find that consistency."
Of course, Gasol isn't the coach or the point guard.
"I don't make the calls," said Gasol.
After the game, point guard Steve Nash noted Gasol's diminished role was not intentional.
"I don't think we're going away from it by choice," Nash said. "I think it's just we have a lot of different ways to play, a lot of different options and sometimes you look up and say, 'We didn't run that a lot tonight,' but it wasn't because we wanted to get away from it."
Kobe Bryant isn't happy about how the Lakers and D'Antoni are using Gasol. He doesn't understand why Gasol hasn't been involved more.
"I don't know. I'm not really sure. I don't know, but we have to figure that out," said Bryant. "We have to go through him a lot, lot more. ... He needs more on the elbow, more touches on the post."
It's not just about scoring for Gasol. He might be the best passer in the league at his position.
"He can make plays for others from down there," said Bryant. "He can control the game from down there, and we've got to figure out a way to get him more activated, it's as simple as that."
Except the Lakers have him standing in the corner or up above the three-point arc. There's a natural difficulty mixing Dwight Howard and Gasol, but D'Antoni needs to make sure his team finds balance.
"Where are you going to put Dwight?" asked Bryant. "We've got to figure out that spacing but [Gasol] needs to have the ball, for sure."
Bryant has sympathy for Gasol, who is in a difficult situation.
"Pau is just going to continue to be patient. He's obviously frustrated and he has every right to be. I'm frustrated for him," said Bryant. "That's something that we have to solve because we're not going to get to where we want to go with him not playing at maximum potential or using his maximum potential."
At 15-17, the Lakers are two games behind the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers. With 50 games to go, the Lakers need to figure out how to play together quickly, otherwise a playoff seeding might be in danger.