So, the Lakers enter tonight's game without Pau Gasol. Pretty sweet, right? Not quite.
Ever since Mike D'Antoni replaced Mike Brown as the coach of the purple and gold, Gasol has been on the outside looking in. In one of the most confusing and indefensible moves in recent memory, D'Antoni had the guy coming off the bench. He has, understandably, not been happy with his role on the team even though it is for a reason, not a good one, but a reason just the same. Now he is out for at least four weeks with a torn ligament in his foot.
Gasol is still one of the best big men in the game. He has skills for days and is arguably the best post up guy in the league. Any team should be ecstatic to have him on the roster, but not D'Antoni. Gasol just doesn't fit into D'Antoni's system of running and running and some running thrown in for good measure.
This year, the big man is averaging career lows in ppg (13.4), offensive rating (106), effective field goal percentage (.462) and has a pedestrian PER of 15.9, per basketball-reference. The numbers basically say what most expected when D'Antoni took over, sucks to be Gasol.
Gasol is the perfect half-court player on a full-court team. Now that D'Antoni doesn't have to worry about giving the peeved Spaniard minutes, he can just implement his system and watch Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant do their thing.
If Howard doesn't play tonight either, he's a game-time decision, the Lakers will be “forced” to go even smaller. I put that in quotes because small-ball is D'Antoni's MO. Howard is a better fit for the running system than Gasol because he can run, but the height of D'Antoni's success as a coach came with the Phoenix Suns and Amare Stoudemire at center, as in he didn't have a center.
Tonight's game should see plenty of Kobe and a sprinkling of Nash as other players step up in their new-found roles. Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark and Robert Sacre will be the biggest beneficiaries in the “D'Antoni system.” Not because they are good players, but because they fit. It also puts more responsibility on Kobe, something I'm sure he hates...
The Celtics should still pull out the win, given their defensive prowess, but it won't be quite the blowout some may expect.
It's crazy that a team this talented is struggling and had to sit one of its best players because of a coach's system. The best coaches take their roster and mold the system around them, not the other way around.
Gasol's injury means the Lakers are in a pretty bad spot going forward. They can't trade him and may be forced to look at dealing Howard because who knows what that guy is going to do in the offseason. The Lakers are fighting tooth and nail to get back into a playoff spot, currently three games behind Houston for 8th, and one would think losing Gasol for a long period of time and trading Howard would flush those hopes down the drain, but maybe not.
While the Lakers may win more games now with more fast-break opportunities, the season will end as a D'Antoni season typically does. They will run into a defense-first team and get routed pretty quick. D'Antoni will get fired and Lakers fans will once again be clamoring for Phil Jackson. His system would be perfect for L.A., but after how they treated him before hiring D'Antoni, I'd sit back and watch the implosion if I were him.
@ericblaisdell13 Eric Blaisdell 2/07/2013 01:00:00 PM Tweet