In the end, Mike D’Antoni went with the hot hand.
That’s not how he explained it, after the game. D’Antoni said Earl Clark played the entire fourth quarter while Pau Gasol sat because the Hornets went small and he had to match it. (Note to D’Antoni: You know, you can go big and make them adapt to you. There was a former Lakers coach initial PJ who had success doing that. Just a thought.)
Gasol had played well and moved the ball fantastically — he had 7 assists to go with his 7 points and 7 rebounds. For the past three games Kobe Bryant has led an unselfish Lakers team and that fits with Gasol.
But Clark was 8-of-11 shooting and 4-of-5 from three, and he had 12 boards. He’s D’Antoni’s guy and he’s going to play him. A lot.
“I’m a competitor, I’m a guy that thinks I bring a lot to the table, and not being on the floor is something that I don’t like, I don’t appreciate,” Gasol said…
“It’s a challenge,” Gasol said when asked about toeing the line and accepting D’Antoni’s decision so that he doesn’t take away from the team while still defending his personal ability. “We’re challenged every day, and I’m challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words.”
Gasol is too much a team guy to really let his ego mess with team chemistry. They can go the rest of the season this way.
But these benchings just fuel the Gasol trade rumors. And clearly both Gasol and D’Antoni would be good with this.
While teams are calling the Lakers up the offers to this point have not been inspiring — not a lot of teams can take on a guy who is 32, missed games with knee tendonitis and will make $19.3 million next year. Add in the Lakers desire to keep cap space in 2014 (which rules out a trade for someone like Josh Smith, who has to be re-signed this summer) and you just don’t have a lot of good choices.
A deal may come together at the deadline but the summer (maybe in July, after the Lakers re-sign Dwight Howard). But for now, the unhappy Gasol is a Laker and it’s likely to stay that way as the Lakers head out on a seven game road trip.