Lakers’ Pau Gasol, Mike D’Antoni try to get on same page
Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni met Wednesday night to hammer out some obvious differences since D’Antoni took over as the Lakers’ coach, The Times has learned.
Gasol said he wanted the ball in the post instead of on the perimeter and also asked to play in crunch time, among the topics discussed with D’Antoni at a Manhattan Beach restaurant.
“It was to make sure we’re in the same boat,” Gasol said in a quiet moment Thursday after the Lakers’ practice. “We’re trying to reach the same goal. Let’s communicate. Hopefully, we can meet halfway on some points.”
D’Antoni told Gasol he would no longer be benched in crucial situations, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
Gasol has been benched three times in the fourth quarter since D’Antoni was hired, including the last 2 minutes 36 seconds of the Lakers 101-100 victory Tuesday over Charlotte. It was Gasol’s first game after sitting out eight in a row because of tendinitis in his knees.
He sat out the entire fourth quarter Nov. 23 against Memphis and the last 6:07 of a Dec. 2 game against Orlando.
Gasol hopes D’Antoni can fiddle with his push-the-pace offense to accommodate the four-time All-Star, who wants to stay with the Lakers despite trade possibilities clinging to him since last December.
So he told D’Antoni to trust him with the ball, alluding to his past success of two NBA championships and two trips to the Olympic gold-medal game.
D’Antoni was the initiator of the meeting, suggesting they get dinner, something he would do with players individually from time to time. Was he making sure he wasn’t “losing” Gasol?
“I didn’t think I was,” D’Antoni told The Times. “But I wanted to make sure he knew what my vision was for him and the team and see if that’s all good. Then we’ll tweak it or not tweak it.
“I thought he was great and gave me a lot of insight into a lot of things. It was more of a feeling-out process and what makes him feel comfortable. He’s a very intelligent basketball player. Why wouldn’t I get his opinion about a lot of things?”
Gasol’s numbers have dipped significantly this season. He is averaging 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds, and shooting only 41.3%.
Gasol didn’t talk about increased touches with D’Antoni but, rather, specific places he wanted the ball. He doesn’t feel comfortable with it so far from the basket, the norm for him in D’Antoni’s offense.
“We didn’t even really talk about [number of] touches because I don’t believe in that,” D’Antoni said. “But I believe in him being involved.”
D’Antoni has tried to figure out how to incorporate Gasol and Dwight Howard in an offense that features a lot of Kobe Bryant shots. D’Antoni’s latest attempt was to play Gasol and Howard together for only 4:04 in the second half of Tuesday’s game.
Gasol, 32, makes $19 million this season and has one more year on his contract for $19.3 million.
Reporters were allowed into Thursday’s practice in just enough time to see Steve Nash drop off a pass to Metta World Peace for a fastbreak layup.
Nash scrimmaged for the first time since missing 24 games because of a small fracture in his left leg.
“He wasn’t huffing and puffing that much,” D’Antoni said.
Nash said he might play Saturday against Golden State but a Christmas Day return against New York was more likely.
“Obviously, I’m not in great condition after being pretty inactive for seven weeks. But that’s just a harsh reality,” Nash said.
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