Prior to the Los Angeles Lakers’ series-opening loss to the Phoenix Suns, head coach Frank Vogel was asked about his plan for the center rotation. As he had been saying for several months now, his plan was to use all three centers — Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell — while also giving Anthony Davis time in that role.
Game 1 saw 19 minutes of Drummond, 15 minutes of Harrell and 14 minutes of Davis, leaving zero minutes for Gasol, who wound up with a DNP. While Gasol has sat out games before, it was surprising to see it after Vogel specifically said he would use all three. In four meetings this season, Gasol has played a total of 18 minutes.
Vogel explained the decision to leave Gasol out of the Game 1 rotation after practice on Monday. “I decided Game 1 not to use that lineup. I have confidence in all three of our centers and AD at the five, so if I don’t throw a certain player into a certain lineup sometimes it’s not because of that player it’s just confidence in another player or another lineup. That’s the case in terms of Marc not playing in Game 1.”
In Game 1, the Lakers three centers not named Gasol left a lot to be desired. Davis played one of his worst games as a Laker, even during his center minutes. Drummond was a minus-4 in his time and struggled mightily to defend DeAndre Ayton in the pick-and-roll.
Meanwhile, Harrell played a decent game but is rightfully relegated to only the minutes in which Ayton is off the floor. Hopefully, in Game 2, the Lakers see more of Gasol, as there is a perfect need for him if Vogel tries to match what the Suns are doing.
Gasol is the perfect center for a Suns lineup that features Ayton but no Chris Paul. If Paul and Ayton cannot use picks to attack centers, then Ayton is reverted to a more typical, back-to-the-basket role. That’s where Gasol is at his best defensively and can make life very difficult for Ayton.
Obviously, Vogel and the Lakers are going to make significant adjustments if they want to win this series. In Game 2 and beyond, we’ll see if that means getting Gasol involved or not.
Drummond hints at potential lineup change
It seems that Drummond is aware of these potential lineup changes as he hinted at it when discussing his understanding of the adjustments that need to be made.
“I think with the big lineup, it’s just we didn’t have enough time to work on it, so it’s something that we’re kind of just throwing out there with little time and little experience,” Drummond said at Monday’s practice. “I think we’re doing a good job of figuring it out on the fly despite us being in the playoffs right now.
“Obviously lineup changes are going to happen. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win, so it’s just feeling it out and do what’s best for the team.”
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