When the starting lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers was revealed for the game against the Chicago Bulls last Monday night, Pau Gasol’s name was not on it. Head coach Mike D’Antoni decided to leave the now healthy Spaniard on the bench, giving the starting gig to Earl Clark. And that might not change anytime soon.
D’Antoni told the media after the loss at the United Center that his decision to make Gasol come off the bench is set in stone until he changes his mind. The Purple & Gold head coach explained the idea to TNT’s Craig Sager before Monday’s contest, stating that when Pau and Dwight Howard play together, their efficiency ratio ranks as low as 28th in the league, but it can get as high as 5th if only one of them is on the court, adding that Clark will be the starter for the “foreseeable future”.
The news obviously didn’t bode well for the 4-time NBA All-Star. Gasol, who usually prefers to keep his thoughts to himself and not polemicize on those kinds of topics, wasn’t shy about speaking his mind in the wake of his new role as a bench player despite being healthy. Also to TNT’s Sager, Gasol said:
“I have never been a role player in my life and I don’t like it right now.” Regarding a possible trade out of the Lakers before this season’s deadline, Gasol added that “It certainly looks like a possibility to me.”
After the game, Gasol quickly went back to his more usual self, as he tried to ease on his previous comments by telling the media that, although he’s surprised about the situation, “the Lakers have biggest things to worry as a group.” Pau also added the following:
I’d love to play here for as many years as possible because I identify myself with the team and I want it to work. I want this to work for us. I’m part of this team. I’m part of this franchise.
The benching comes in a season in which D’Antoni has struggled to find the perfect balance between the Lakers roster and his up-tempo style of offense that favors smaller lineups. It has certainly been a tough stretch for Gasol, who has been battling a injury-plagued season that included tendonitis on both knees, plantar fasciatis and a concussion. Adding all those factors, the result is that Pau is having arguably the worst year of his NBA stint, averaging a career-low 12.7 points per game.