Pau Gasol expresses frustration with D’Antoni offense. Lakers have to think trade.


Pau Gasol just does not fit in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. And it shows.

In years past I’ve defended Gasol because one segment of Lakers fans were unnecessarily harsh on him because he didn’t play like Shaq — but how Gasol played was perfect for the triangle. The Lakers won back-to-back rings because of him, not in spite of him.

But he is a fish out of water in D’Antoni’s offense — he wants the ball in the post and that doesn’t fit. The result is Gasol shooting just 41.7 percent on the season, a career low by a wide margin. He’s playing passively. Look at what Gasol told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times.

“The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” he said. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity….

“This year hasn’t been ideal, certain things are not ideal for me, but that’s not going to change any time soon,” he said.

So what did D’Antoni say?

“I can’t lie to him… Our numbers tell us the worst thing we do is post up,” he said.

D’Antoni’s right. When the Los Angeles Lakers have thrown the ball in the post this season, they have shot just 34.6 percent on their shot attempts, scoring a paltry 0.67 points per possession. (Numbers via Synergy Sports.)

(What the Lakers do well is spot up shots — one in five Lakers attempts is a catch-and-shoot this season and they are hitting 40.1 percent from three and scoring 1.06 points per possession when they do it. Next most shot attempts are in transition, 11.7 percent of the team’s attempts, and the Lakers are shooting 56.8 percent on the break.)

So how is Gasol responding to this criticism?

“I don’t pay attention. Mike is sometimes all over the place, I don’t give much credit to things like that,” he said.

All of this has led to a listless run of play from Gasol, who is not playing with the energy he has in past years.

The Lakers simply need to look at moving Gasol — and Gasol said he would be open to that.

Los Angeles is not going to get back what Lakers’ fans hope — Gasol’s value is down right now and while he is an expiring deal only a limited number of teams want to touch his $19.3 million salary (or have something that size they can send back to the Lakers). All-Stars like Zach Randolph are not coming back to L.A. in a deal.

There is a market for Gasol if he is willing to take a pay cut next season — he is a very skilled big who can get $10 million plus a season for multiple years. He might fit well in Chicago if they amnesty Carlos Boozer. He has said he can picture himself next to his brother in Memphis and that slowed-down, post system could work well for him. There are plenty of other teams.

He sounds like a guy ready to move on, and if he is the Lakers have to see if they can get anything of value for him before it happens. It’s not like moving him is going to keep them from a title run this season.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell with shot of night to force OT with Spurs

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One of the factors to consider in the Rookie of the Year race: clutch plays.

Down three with less than 10 seconds to go Friday night, the Utah Jazz put the ball in the hands of their rookie playmaker Donovan Mitchell — and he made the play, draining a three to force overtime. It’s an impressive play.

In the clutch this season (last five minutes of a game, within five points), Mitchell has averaged 3.2 shots per contest (by far the most of any rookie) and has a true shooting percentage of 51 percent. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the other front-runner in the ROY race, averages less than a shot per game in those clutch situations (0.8) and has a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent.

Mitchell made the big shot, but the Spurs made plenty too, had 45 points on the night from LaMarcus Aldridge, and got the win.


PBT Extra: Who is coming out of the Eastern Conference?

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The Toronto Raptors will finish with the No. 1 seed and all the best metrics in the East, but they have a history of playoff flameouts. The Boston Celtics’ have been hit hard by injuries. And the Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James but also a dreadful defense, this is the most vulnerable a LeBron led team has been since he bolted Cleveland seven years ago.

So what team is coming out of the East?

We get into that in this latest PBT Extra. A poll on Twitter found most of you think the Cavaliers, but personally, I think the Raptors — who have been better defensively all season than the Cavs — may finally have their year.

LaMarcus Aldridge drops career-high 45 points, Spurs beat Jazz in OT

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell‘s 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs’ 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah’s 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Aldridge averaged 32.2 points and 9.0 rebounds during the winning streak, including two double-doubles.

Aldridge scored 28 points in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including a 3-pointer.

Utah missed its first six shots and was 4 for 14 as San Antonio grabbed a 19-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Mitchell settled the Jazz, scoring six points to cut the Spurs lead to 29-21 heading into the second quarter.

Mitchell was 14-for-35 shooting while falling six points shy of his season-high.

Derrick Favors added 22 points for Utah and Ricky Rubio had 20.

Ginobili finished with 18 points for the Spurs.


Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury


In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.