Consistency. Lack of defense. Lack of discipline.
Those were the postgame remarks from L.A. Lakers All-Star Pau Gasol after the Orlando Magic came to Staples Center on Sunday and stunned the Lakers, 113-103. Clearly, Gasol was frustrated by the lack of discipline on the court by his teammates, but what could be eating at him more is the fact that he was benched in the fourth quarter when the game was still in the balance.
When Los Angeles Times reporter Mike Bresnahan asked Gasol if he was “irritated” about being on the bench in the fourth quarter the Spaniard responded by saying, “I don’t get irritated,” but then went on to quip that it was “upsetting.”
“I like to be out there. It’s upsetting for me as a player, but I won’t allow it to irritate me,” the Lakers forward said, who is averaging a career-low 12.7 points through the first quarter of the 2012-13 NBA season. “We all try to figure out and do our best to win the game, and coach makes his decisions and you gotta respect him.”
Gasol is a true professional. He won’t rock the boat or disrupt team chemistry by going rogue when things are going sour, and right now the Lakers are feeling very salty with the way the season has started for them. Gasol may not say it publicly but he is not happy with how he’s being used.
“Within the system, I’m gonna try to find positions where I can be more effective and be more comfortable in the positions I’ve been playing through my entire career,” Gasol said, “positions that made me so successful as a player.”
Head coach Mike D’Antoni so badly wants to play small ball, and he has dropped hints of that by increasing Antawn Jamison’s playing time at the expense of Gasol’s floor time. Jamison is a stretch 4 — or a small forward who can play power forward — who fits better with Dwight Howard. That’s the way D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns teams spaced the floor, with Shawn Marion playing outside and allowing Amare Stoudemire to play exclusively inside and run pick-and-roll with Steve Nash.
Even though Gasol can face up and knock down shots from the free throw line, he’s more of a back-to-the-basket big man. He likes to handle the ball in the post and is an excellent passer for a 7-footer. But the biggest challenge for D’Antoni is figuring out how to get more speed on the court without alienating Howard and Gasol. Teams are countering the Lakers’ size advantage by playing faster and putting Howard and Gasol in pick-and-rolls.
”I think our problem is just not coming out with the intensity and the purpose that we need to have. … We’re slow right now,” D’Antoni told the Associated Press. “Just athletically, we’re struggling with young teams that run up and down.”
When asked how can the Lakers fix the problems on defense, Gasol said the team has “scramble at all times.”
“I think we did better in the third quarter when he held them to, what was it, 20 points. But then fourth quarter they scored 40 points,” Gasol said of what the Magic did to them on Sunday. “It’s just not something we can afford and allow as a team. We’re too good of a defensive team.
“We have to find ways to cover for each other and not allow easy looks, or open jumpers, then dunks. A lot to work on, just got to be a little more disciplined.”
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.