T.J. SIMERS

Lakers' Mike D'Antoni puts accent on positive after going negative

It's hard to decipher Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni's West Virginia drawl, but his recent criticism of Pau Gasol was pretty clear. But he says he's a big fan of Gasol.

Most of us don't speak West Virginian.

It's a tricky language, but just part of the job now as we get to know Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni and what he's really saying when he speaks.

For example, I wanted to know if anyone has ever used the expression "to go D'Antoni on someone," as in really letting someone have it as he did Pau Gasol the other day.

"I didn't do anything to him," D'Antoni says, and for all we know Gasol is inside the locker room and curled into a ball after being annihilated by D'Antoni.

"Those were tough words," I suggest.

"What did I say?" D'Antoni wants to know, and as much as he talks and as hard as it is to always understand what he's saying, maybe he didn't hear himself correctly.

I remind him he benched Gasol in Memphis and when D'Antoni was asked later what he was thinking, he told everyone he was thinking he wanted to win the game.

Ouch!

"Those are tough words?" D'Antoni asks.

"I thought those were as tough words as we've heard from a coach around here."

"You're a sensitive guy," D'Antoni jokes. "See, I'll treat you a little bit different. I've got to give you a big hug because obviously you need one."

He's got that right.

"Pau is a pretty big guy; he can handle it," D'Antoni says. "I was just a smart aleck like I normally am, but that's about it."

Hard to believe anyone is more sensitive than Gasol, who is already the subject of trade talk. And it hasn't gone well in the past when he has felt unwanted.

"I don't get it," D'Antoni says. "That's not coming from us. That's just what [happens] in New York and L.A. That's what you all do; you talk and most of it is wrong.

"But it does get people interested and that's good. I'm OK with that. It's entertaining and it should be entertaining. I'm sure Pau is not affected. . . ."

We know differently.

"Then you all should stop doing it," says D'Antoni, quick with the disarming humor, and I wonder if he would mind joining me for Jim Mora's news conference after Friday night's Pac-12 title game.

Now ask most Lakers fans, based on what they've heard so far, and I would guess they expect Gasol to be traded. Haven't we all been led to believe he can't fit with what D'Antoni wants to accomplish?

"It's wrong," D'Antoni says. "When Dwight [Howard] goes out, Pau is a great center, and you cannot find a center for 14 minutes that can do what he does. So that's super positive.

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