Pau Gasol benched in latest Lakers loss, wants more touches in the post

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The Lakers have lost two straight after winning their first with Mike D’Antoni in place on the sidelines, and in both of those games, the frontcourt combination of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol was completely shut down.

The home win over Brooklyn was solid, but the loss in Sacramento was embarrassing, and the loss in Memphis — against what is currently the league’s best team — was to be expected. What wasn’t expected was how easily teams would deal with Gasol and Howard in the paint, and be able to hold them to numbers that aren’t even acceptable for one All-Star starting big man, let alone two of them combined.

Howard has the excuse of not yet being at 100 percent, while still working his way back conditioning-wise after undergoing back surgery over the summer. With Gasol, there seems to be less room for excuses, and less patience all around.

D’Antoni benched Gasol for the entire fourth quarter in Memphis, instead sticking with Antawn Jamison, who was having his most productive game as a Laker on both ends of the floor. He said afterward he did so because he wanted to win the game, meaning obviously that what Gasol was giving him on this night would not be enough to get that accomplished.

Afterward, Gasol blamed his lack of touches in the post for his subpar performance. From Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

“All my looks are jump shots,” he said. “I would like to see something closer to the basket and not just rolling, especially when Dwight is there. But we’ll see. We’ll figure it out. We’re just starting, pretty much.”

“I’m not a pure jump-shooter,” he said. “I can stretch the defense out and make a couple jumpers. But how I get going is by getting in the paint and creating off the post, things like that.

“That’s historically how I’ve been really successful and made a really good name for myself and earned my contracts. But hopefully I’ll find a way and we’ll find a way to get me a few opportunities there and get myself going in that way and be more effective.”

Gasol would certainly benefit from getting more post-up opportunities, but he’d need to do that alongside someone not named Dwight Howard for that to happen. Maybe those touches can come when playing with Jordan Hill or Antawn Jamison at the four during stretches when Gasol gets some run as the de facto center with the second unit. Like last year playing alongside Andrew Bynum, it’s going to be difficult to play him in the post with Howard demanding that space when the two are sharing the floor.

What’s odd about Gasol’s complaint, though, is that plenty of his looks were wide open, even 17-20 feet from the basket. He’s more than a capable shooter from there, and if you look at the shot chart below from Friday night’s game, even the one shot he made on the left side of the paint came after receiving the ball near the top of the circle, and then driving to the basket to score in the game’s early minutes.

source:

Presumably, the Lakers offense will find its way once Steve Nash (and even Steve Blake) make their way back into the lineup; there’s simply too much talent there not to show some serious improvement, at least in theory.

But Gasol needs to remain engaged along the way for that to happen. On nights when he’s not getting the touches in the spots he desires, he needs to make the most of his opportunities for the Lakers to have a shot.

PBT Podcast: MVP, Rookie of Year, other awards plus NBA playoffs, Finals predictions

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Will James Harden repeat as MVP or will someone else — LeBron James, Anthony Davis — grab the award away from him?

Luca Doncic and Deandre Ayton seem to be the favorites for Rookie of the Year, but could Trae Young or Jaren Jackson Jr. push their way into the conversation?

Who will win Coach of the Year? Is Jamal Murray a guy to watch for Most Improved Player?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports discuss all the major awards plus get into playoff predictions in this latest PBT Podcast. Can Charlotte sneak into the final playoff slot in the East or is Detroit going to take that? Are the Spurs going to miss the playoffs in the West for the first time in 22 years? And are the Warriors a lock to win it all? (Hint: They are not.)

We want your questions for the podcast, and your comments, email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com. As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Report: Suns signing Jamal Crawford

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The Suns are desperate for a point guard.

How desperate?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I wouldn’t assume Phoenix plans to play Crawford at point guard. Perhaps, he’ll be an off guard. But the possibility is scary – whether the fear comes from playing Crawford out of position or the possibility he’d actually be the Suns’ top point guard.

It’s questionable whether the 38-year-old can help in either backcourt spot. He doesn’t attack the rim like he used to, and his defense has become even more porous.

Though he declined a $4,544,400 player option with the Timberwolves, there’s a reason he remained a free agent so long. He’ll likely settle for the minimum with Phoenix, one of the NBA’s bottom teams.

The Suns now have 14 players with guaranteed salaries on standard contracts, three with small or no guarantees (Richaun Holmes, Isaiah Canaan and Shaquille Harrison) plus Crawford. The regular-season standard-contract roster limit is 15. So, it’ll be interesting to see whom Phoenix drops in the next day. The Suns reportedly applied for a disabled-player exception for Darrell Arthur.

The Suns might try to spin this as adding veteran leadership. But they already have Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Tyson Chandler. How many veteran leaders do they need?

They need a starting-caliber point guard. Crawford isn’t it. At best, they realize that and have other plans for him.

Charles Barkley says he hasn’t worn underwear in a decade

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Charles Barkley can’t control everything, like whether the Magic hire him as general manager.

But he can control his underpants, as he explained on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Knicks stress patience, indulge impatient tendencies by stretching Joakim Noah

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry talked a big game about patiently rebuilding – practically a foreign concept in New York.

And most of the summer, they backed up their words.

They drafted Kevin Knox No. 9 and Mitchell Robinson No. 36. They didn’t sign a single free agent to a multi-year deal. They made no win-now trade (or any trade at all).

Yet, even in the Knicks’ most patient offseason in years, they closed it with an incredibly impatient move.

New York stretched Joakim Noah, locking in a cap hit of $18,530,000 this season and $6,431,667 each of the following three years. The move opens an additional $12,863,333 in cap space next summer.

But what if the Knicks don’t need that extra room? What if they don’t attract free agents worth spending that amount then? Eating Noah’s entire $19,295,000 2019-20 salary that season, rather than splitting it over three years, is off the table.

What if they need even more room? What if they can draw great free agents who command more money than New York can offer? Attaching sweeteners to trade Noah’s salary and remove it entirely is also now impossible.

The Knicks could have waited until next summer to stretch, straight waive or trade Noah. They would have had far more information then, as the stretch deadline is Aug. 31.

This move puts so much needless pressure on New York to use its cap space next summer. Though the Knicks’ reported top target, Kyrie Irving, already said he’d re-sign with the Celtics, Kevin Durant-New York rumors are swirling, and Jimmy Butler put the Knicks on his list. The Knicks project to have about $33 million in cap space next summer, including a cap hold for only Kristaps Porzingis. They could add a franchise-changing star.

But this doesn’t jibe with a patient rebuild.

Biding time until next summer, New York took fliers on Mario Hezonja (one year, $6.5 million) and Noah Vonleh (one year, minimum). But despite seemingly tepid markets for those two in free agency, the Knicks didn’t capitalize on their leverage by attaching any additional unguaranteed seasons to their contracts. That will make it extremely difficult to get value from them. If Hezonja or Vonleh break out, they’ll be in line for bigger deals next summer.

Of course, it’s more likely New York’s first-, not second-, draft players dictate the team’s future. For the first time in eight seasons, the Knicks will have three players simultaneously on rookie-scale contracts – Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and Knox. That most-modest benchmark is a major accomplishment in New York, where quick fixes have ruled the day.

After waiving Noah, it’s hard to see the Knicks as truly committed to a new, more prudent approach.

 

Offseason grade: C-