Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bye, Bye Paul Gasol

Ever since the L.A.Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni as head coach a few weeks ago, power forward Pau Gasol has had one foot out the door. Since then things have gotten worse.

The team announced today that Gasol will sit out tonight's game in Houston with tendinitis in both knees. He may miss a lot more, if you read between the lines of his cryptic tweet from earlier today.

This is the tip of the iceberg. According to a source close to one of  the Laker players, the relationship between Gasol and the coach can only be described as miserable. But, at first, this was all under wraps, known only to the players and those close to the team. But last week D'Antoni went public with his disdain for Gasol. When asked after a loss last week why Gasol didn't play in the fourth quarter, D'Antoni replied acidly, "Because I wanted to win."

Ouch! It's been downhill since then.

Lately, Gasol has been moping and whining in practice. D'Antoni, a hard-ass who has no patience for moping and whining, has been surly and sour in practice toward the All-Star forward. Clearly the coach doesn't respect Gasol as a player. It's just as clear, in the locker room, that Gasol doesn't like D'Antoni. No question Gasol won't be around at the end of the season.

The problem is that D'Antoni's run-and-gun, uptempo system is not suited to Gasol, a seven-footer who's best in a slower-paced, half-court format, like coach Phil Jackson's triangle. Gasol thrived in the triangle, but he's been a bust in D'Antoni's racehorse system. Gasol likes to post  up, to play near the basket. But in D'Antoni's system, he's required to run much more and shoot from the outside. Not Gasol's style.

His stats are lousy, the worse of his career--12.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on 42 % shooting. From three-point land, he's just 28.6%. Reserve forward Antewan Jamison, a good outside shooter and a better fit in this system, will start in Gasol's place.

It's only going to get worse for Gasol. When healthy he doesn't like sprinting up and down the court. With bad knees and at his age, 32, how can it get better? When Steve Nash, who returns at point guard later this month, is back and the system is running a top speed, Gasol will really seem out of place.

Is a trade in the works? Apparently there's nothing on the horizon at the moment. But traditionally, when a player is on the trading block, he'll all of a sudden be held out of the lineup. Supposedly Gasol sitting out is his idea, but don't believe that.

Trading Gasol won't be easy. Other teams, which play a more slow-down style, would love to have him but his salary, $19 million a year and $38 million over two years, is a major obstacle. Gasol could come off the bench and play limited minutes for the Lakers, but he makes too much money to be a reserve. 

Since he doesn't fit D'Antoni's system, and he and the coach don't see eye to eye, and reserve status isn't a viable option, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the All-Star forward is still a Laker at the end of the season.

So bye, bye Pau Gasol