Just recently, Magic Johnson stated that the Lakers are misusing Pau Gasol’s offensive skill-set, and that he needs to be positioned in the post. Kobe Bryant echoed those sentiments.
In a recent interview with Stephen A. Smith, Kobe went on to say that he essentially agrees with Johnson’s comments and when asked about speaking to head coach Mike D’Antoni about it, here’s what he said:
“He needs to be in the post more, for sure. We [Kobe and Mike D’Antoni] spoke about that. Obviously, Pau’s been out with an injury, but when he gets back, he’ll be in his sweet spots for sure.”
Bryant mentioned earlier in the interview how frustrating it has been for Gasol over the last few seasons as well; explaining that since the Lakers’ 2010 championship Gasol’s role has changed from having the offense run through him to having to take a backseat to Andrew Bynum, and now Dwight Howard.
As far as whether coach D’Antoni is willing to make adjustments, Bryant had this to say:
“Mike D is a very, very smart offensive coach. I think that he’s not a man that’s stuck in one particular way. If it’s not working, I’m sure he’s open to mixin’ things up.”
Stephen A. then asked Bryant if that’s something he thinks or knows about his coach:
“Oh I know that. He wants to be successful more than anything. You know, it’s not just about implementing his system. What’s the end goal? If the end goal is to win a championship, it’s not about playing a certain way.”
In a recent article by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, however, Shelburne detailed an interview she had with Mike D’Antoni regarding Pau Gasol:
“If a picture tells a thousand words, the one D’Antoni drew for me after a recent practice says everything you need to know about what a challenge it will be for him and Gasol to find the right balance.
I hold out my notebook and draw a picture of the key, then a circle near the elbow where I generally see Gasol start on offense.
‘This is the space Pau is usually in, right?’
D’Antoni shakes his head, grabs the notebook and pen and starts drawing circles along the baseline, perimeter and just outside the key.
‘Pau can start in any of these places,’ he explains. ‘We never want to be predictable. We don’t want the other team to know where we are going to be.’
Then he takes the pen and colors in the area inside the paint. It’s everywhere on the court Gasol has always been comfortable.
‘But he’s not here. We need this space.’
Shelburne explained that it would either have to be Mike D’Antoni or Pau Gasol who would have to make an adjustment. It appears to be D’Antoni who is willing to make the adjustment many fans, pundits, and columnists have clamored for.
This should be a relief for people like Magic Johnson, who was insistent that Gasol needs to down on the low block, and confused as to why he hasn’t been.
Hopefully, it will also stop the overwhelming notion than Pau Gasol needs to come off the bench in this offensive system as well. While I believe he needs more time at the center position when Howard is on the bench and should anchor the second unit, I feel that bringing him off the bench isn’t the best idea, and that a player of his caliber must be successful with the starting unit as well if the Lakers hope to win a championship.
Additionally, in Gasol’s stead, Mike D’Antoni hasn’t been able to find consistency from his remaining power forwards. Some nights Antawn Jamison is a better match-up for the opposition, and some nights Jordan Hill is. I don’t believe having a change in the starting lineup on a night-by-night basis is the best thing for the Lakers, either.
Although the defense has been the Lakers’ main puzzle, at least one major question has been answered, or at least addressed.