Pau Gasol has become the odd man out in this strangest of Lakers seasons. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Pau Gasol has made it clear he doesn't want to come off the bench and he expects to finish games.
"My job is to try to get the best team on the floor all the time and make it work," maintained Coach Mike D'Antoni after practice Friday. "That doesn't mean I'm not including him. I just mean, that's my job."
When Gasol initially returned from his knee injury, the Lakers relied on their forward-center to create offense in the high post. Gasol responded by averaging 5.5 assists over a four-game stretch.
Even before his recent concussion, the team moved away from running the offense through Gasol. With the Miami Heat trapping Steve Nash, Gasol thought the Lakers missed an opportunity.
"We talked about doing it in timeouts, but we never really got to do it in the game," said Gasol. "[The Heat] show so much and they're so aggressive to the ball, it takes one defender off me and then it's a four on three, with me catching the ball on the top of the floor and making decisions and attacking from that point ... getting an open shot almost every time. We didn't get to do it that much. Hopefully we'll do it down in Miami in February."
The best example of the Lakers using Gasol as playmaker was against the Warriors.
"The Golden State game for instance, we ran a lot of the elbow sets where I caught the ball from the elbow and made plays from there," said Gasol. "We got four different looks just out of the one set, four different shots, layups, dunks open shots."
So where did that go?
"You're preaching to the choir, my friend," answered Gasol. "There's so much I can do. I don't play by myself. We're a team. We [have] a coaching staff."
There's tension between Gasol and D'Antoni that is bigger than just starting and finishing games.
"We have to figure it out, tighten up our execution, know what to run, know where we can get good looks from down the stretch and not just rely on Kobe [Bryant] to bail us out every time because right now he's been on this defensive task of guarding point guards," said Gasol. "It's going to take quite a bit of his legs too. We have to understand and be smart. That's a challenge in this profession."
Bryant has been outspoken in his support for Gasol, both as a playmaker and as a low-post scorer.
"He's on the same page," said Gasol of Bryant.
The Lakers' offense won't flow into Gasol naturally. It's something they consciously look to do as a unit.
"Our spacing doesn't really favor that too much," he said. "It has to be more like specific calls, sometimes initiating the offense differently for that to happen."
So who is making the call, or rather the non-call, D'Antoni or Nash?
"From both," said Gasol. "All ends."
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