Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni says players who complain should ‘play harder’
OKLAHOMA CITY — Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni had a suggestion for Pau Gasol and any other Lakers who didn’t like their role in his offense.
“Everybody, to a man, we’ve just got to play harder and worry about things less,” he said Friday before the Lakers played Oklahoma City. “That’s one thing, if they just don’t want to do it that way. Then you have to accept it or not. But there’s no reason to not play hard.”
Most players like D’Antoni’s high-scoring scheme, but Gasol told The Times on Thursday that he felt less aggressive because D’Antoni kept him too far from the basket.
D’Antoni said that rationale was simply an excuse to not play hard, regardless of which player would use it.
“That’s a classic, ‘Well, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,’” D’Antoni said. “Well, you don’t have trouble getting up to the pay-stub line. They know what to do there to get the check. So obviously you know what to do. They will.”
Gasol told The Times a day earlier that his poor play on the court — 14.4 points a game, 41.4% shooting — was a result of being underutilized.
“When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity,” Gasol said.
D’Antoni said Gasol would “get through it.”
“The message is the same to everybody — just play hard and we’ll figure it out,” D’Antoni said. “If you don’t play hard, it’s hard to figure out because you don’t know what works and what doesn’t. I think everybody has the same message and we keep beating it in during practice. Every film session we show them what we want and hopefully they’ll do it.”
Gasol was praised by D’Antoni after the Lakers’ 122-97 loss to Oklahoma City. He had 14 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes.
“I think he was more aggressive and him and Kobe [Bryant] have a little special thing together,” D’Antoni said. “I think we can continue on that.”
Bryant controlled the ball as the teams’ unofficial point guard and seemed to look often for Gasol.
Bryant tried to downplay the D’Antoni-Gasol spat.
“That’s every year. They’re like an old couple,” he said. “It’s just not a big deal.”
Reserve center Chris Kaman played for the first time since Nov. 17 and had nine points in 12 minutes, all in the fourth quarter.
He had been bothered by a sore back and also had fallen out of D’Antoni’s rotation.
He traveled the first time he handled the ball in the post but then converted a three-point play after being fouled on a short bank shot. He also hit a 12-footer and scored on a sharp spinning layup.
It all came against Thunder backups.
“At that point the game was over, but I felt comfortable,” Kaman said. “I wish I would have had an opportunity to play at times in the game when it was important.”
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