For a while, during the Lakers’ recent January struggles where the team started 2-10, players were unhappy with their roles. Dwight Howard wanted more touches. Kobe Bryant wanted better focus. And, dominating most of the headlines, was Pau Gasol’s unhappiness coming off of the bench.
However, when Mike D’Antoni decided to go with Earl Clark in the starting rotation instead of Pau, Gasol made it clear that he didn’t enjoy the bench roll because it didn’t seem to help the team’s losing problem. If the team began to win, and if they found something that worked, Pau Gasol would accept any role that Coach D’Antoni asked of him.
That was then and this is now. The Lakers, winners of their last three games including the biggest win of the season on Sunday over the then-Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder, have found something that works. Kobe is sharing, Dwight is dominating the paint, and the Lakers are playing fundamental team basketball.
But Pau Gasol is still upset. Mike D’Antoni decided to go with Earl Clark in the fourth quarter of last night’s game against the Hornets in which the Lakers snuck away with a 111-106 win.
Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk at NBCSports.com reported that Mike D’Antoni stuck with Earl Clark in the fourth quarter because “the Hornets went small and he had to match it.”
Whatever the reason, Pau isn’t happy. He vented his frustration to ESPNLosAngeles.com.
After his seven points, seven assist, seven rebound effort, Gasol said, “I’m a competitor, I’m a guy that thinks I bring a lot to the table, and not being on the floor is something that I don’t like, I don’t appreciate.”
It appears that no matter what’s been said during the difficult season, winning isn’t curing everything. And whether Pau’s benching is simply to match size with the other team, is to go with a hot hand, or is a precursor to any possible trade rumors involving Pau Gasol remains to be seen.