Steve Nash has been saying for the past three weeks that it’s beyond desperation time for the Lakers, and prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago, Coach Mike D’Antoni made a move worthy of a desperate team.
He removed four-time All-Star Pau Gasol from the starting lineup, replacing him with Earl Clark, and brought the 7-foot Spaniard off the bench. However, it didn’t improve the Lakers’ results, as their losing streak away from Staples Center stretched to six with a 95-83 loss to the Bulls.
”It isn’t against him, it’s better for us right now,” D’Antoni said
before the game. ”We’re going to try to work through it and see what we
can do. Things do change, things happen. I can’t see the future but
we’re ready to go forward.”
Gasol said he’s “not excited” by the move and believes he could soon be gone as the trading deadline nears.
”I have no idea,” he said of his future in LA. ”I can’t really worry about something that
is out of my hands so I am just going to stay positive and do my best,
but it is not something I am too thrilled about. I wasn’t expecting it.
But right now we have bigger things to worry about as a group. As a team
player that’s what I’m most concern about.”
After last Thursday night’s loss to Miami, Gasol said he didn’t mind coming off the bench because it was his first game back after being out with concussion symptoms. He added, though, that he wouldn’t be happy if it became a permanent thing. “No, that wouldn’t be good,” the two-time NBA champion said.
The following day at practice D’Antoni was repeatedly questioned about Gasol’s status and his ability to play alongside Dwight Howard. D’Antoni was evasive with his answers — as he is with any subject he’s uncomfortable talking about — then he did a turnaround and added: “My job is to put the best team on the floor. If I feel (starting Gasol) is the best way to go, then we’ll go that way. If I don’t, it’s nothing personal.
“I have to do what I think is right, and I think every player has to accept that whether they like it or not. That’s the bottom line.
“Now, does he deserve to start? Yeah he does, he’s been here a long time. But if (he) doesn’t, you know what? You’ve got to go on. You’ve got to contribute. You’ve got teammates to think about and you have the Lakers to think about and you have to do what’s best for the Lakers. Whether we agree or not, that’s something else. We can agree to disagree.
“My job is to try and get the best team on the floor all the time and make it work. That doesn’t mean I’m not including him, that’s just my job. Starting does not matter. The last 10 minutes of a game matter, and that’s where we may have some problems.”
Against the Bulls, Gasol was in the game from the start of the fourth quarter and Howard entered at the 8:33 mark, showing that D’Antoni hasn’t given up on having the two bigs on the court at the same time.
Gasol finished with 15 points in 26 minutes. Howard had eight points, nine rebounds, five fouls and four turnovers.