Starting midway through the third quarter in the Lakers comeback win over the Bobcats Tuesday, Mike D’Antoni stopped playing Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard together. They subbed each other out and D’Antoni went small with a lot of Metta World Peace at the four. It worked, by the way. When Gasol and Howard shared the floor the Lakers were -22 for the game, the comeback started not long after D’Antoni started just having one of his star bigs on the floor.
However, that meant one star big man had to sit the crucial last couple minutes, and that was Gasol. And he didn’t like it.
So Gasol and D’Antoni went out to dinner and tried to talk it out, reports the Los Angeles Times. One of the things to come out of it was Gasol will be playing the end of games.
Gasol said he wanted the ball in the post instead of on the perimeter and also asked to play in crunch time, among the topics discussed with D’Antoni at a Manhattan Beach restaurant.
‘It was to make sure we’re in the same boat,’ Gasol said. ‘We’re trying to reach the same goal. Let’s communicate. Hopefully, we can meet halfway on some points.”
D’Antoni told Gasol he would no longer be benched in crucial situations, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
D’Antoni is like most coaches — he’s willing to try Howard and Gasol together, but he doesn’t want to lose games over it. The Lakers, after their ugly start to the season, are the current 12 seed in the West and while just 1.5 games back of the eight spot there are a lot of good teams bunched up in there such as Utah, Denver, Dallas (which gets Dirk Nowitzki back soon), an improving Timberwolves squad and more. The Lakers path to the playoffs is not easy and they can’t just flip the switch after the All-Star break. They need to win games.
If Gasol and Howard at the end of games doesn’t work in his system, D’Antoni can’t stick with the experiment for long. And that leads to a host of other questions for the franchise.
But for now it’s all good. It’s about communication. Right D’Antoni?
“But I wanted to make sure he knew what my vision was for him and the team and see if that’s all good. Then we’ll tweak it or not tweak it. I thought he was great and gave me a lot of insight into a lot of things. It was more of a feeling-out process and what makes him feel comfortable. He’s a very intelligent basketball player. Why wouldn’t I get his opinion about a lot of things?”