The arrival of Andre Drummond provided the Los Angeles Lakers with a major boost to their title defense quest considering his tremendous talent and skills, some of which L.A particularly lacked this season. But while the franchise and its fans largely celebrated the two-time All-Star’s signing, Marc Gasol had fewer reasons to smile due to the tricky situation he suddenly found himself in.
The 36-year-old’s acclimatization took longer than expected following his move to Los Angeles. Both the center and the team couldn’t figure out the best way to use the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year in head coach Frank Vogel’s system.
Gasol then endured a difficult battle with the coronavirus (COVID-19) that sidelined him for nine games. And less than a week after his return, the Spaniard had to hand his spot in the starting lineup over to Drummond, watching the first three quarters of the showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks from the bench.
Gasol failed to make the opening five for just the 15th time in his 11-year career in the NBA.
The experienced center offered a candid response to questions about his role after, due to Drummond’s injury, he temporarily regained his starting position in the 115-94 win over the Sacramento Kings. “It’s a hard pill to swallow,” he said despite reassurances from Vogel that he intends to use all three of his centers this season.
Meanwhile, Vogel doubled down on praising Gasol reiterating that the Spanish center still has a crucial role to play for the Lakers this season. “I think people need to understand how good of a player Marc Gasol is and how valuable he is to what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re going to play our most important players, so he’s going to help us win a championship this year. That’s the plan, that’s the vision.
“Obviously, Andre [Drummond] coming along gives us the depth, but we’re going to need all three of those guys. We stated that from Day 1 and Marc is one of our most important players. He dominated the game tonight with five points. This is what Marc brings to the table. He’s a dominant defensive big, former Defensive Player of the Year and he doesn’t need shots offensively, which is good for our group.”
Vogel then reeled off a list of Gasol’s qualities that, he predicts, will be invaluable for the Lakers during the deciding part of the season. “He facilitates, he wins the offensive possession with his passing and his three-point shooting,” he said. “That’s not always going to result in 20 points per game or whatever, but it helps us win. We all just need to recognize how important he is to what we’re trying to do here.”
Vogel promises support for Gasol after his demotion
Vogel has been vocal about Gasol’s importance to the Lakers’ title pursuit despite falling down the pecking order. The coach said he hopes to make the center feel appreciated at Staples Center despite his new, diminished role and help him cope with the difficult adjustment. “I have been through situations like this,” Vogel said.
“You coach the game and it actually pops up a lot in different levels whether it’s starters or reservees or whatever, but additions of good players change guy’s roles and it usually all works itself out. It really does. I would say the same thing about this situation.
“Again, I’m not going to go into the conversations that Marc and I have had, but the approach is full support. It’s difficult to see that your role is going to change. How can we support you? Make sure they understand that they’re a vital piece like Marc is a vital piece to us winning a championship this year.”
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