Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni and Spanish superstar Pau Gasol met for dinner in Manhattan Beach to discuss Gasol’s role with the team, the Los Angeles Times reported. Gasol has been frustrated by watching from the bench late in games. During the meeting, D’Antoni reportedly told Gasol he would remain on the floor in crucial situations from this point forward.
D’Antoni’s most recent benching came during the final two and a half minutes of the Lakers’ 101-100 win over Charlotte. With the dinner meeting occurring the night after Tuesday’s narrow victory, the pair did not take long to discuss a ballooning problem.
Gasol is first in line to be shipped out of town should the Lakers not find their championship stride prior to the trade deadline. With the latest luxury tax amendments punishing teams to a far greater extent following the latest league lockout, Gasol’s $19.3 million salary next season would likely be traded. Gasol's travel plans may be permanently delayed, however, if the Lakers can display signs of greatness between now and Feb. 21, 2013.
The Los Angeles Times also reported that this meeting was initiated by D’Antoni. That is a good sign for Gasol. If D’Antoni and the Lakers were about to trade him out of town, they would not bother trying to appease the Spanish center and work to integrate him.
Gasol offers D’Antoni several possible lineups and advantages, but so far, D’Antoni’s style has not materialized when both Lakers big men are playing in tandem. Dwight Howard is the preferred player due to his strength and strategic contract situation (highly desired free agent at the end of the season). Gasol offers D’Antoni the best backup center in the league when Howard goes to the bench.
Also, Gasol’s skill-set is a perfect fit to run the pick-and-roll when Steve Nash returns within a week’s time. When used properly, Gasol’s skills can win titles. It was his arrival in Los Angeles that took Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson’s Lakers from being first round eliminations to being two-time champions.
Gasol also reportedly asked D’Antoni to allow him back into the low post position. Currently, Howard gets favoritism closer to the basket when both big men are on the floor. Gasol has been reduced to a mid-range jump shooter. He does not believe this to be the best position for his skills, and it is nearly impossible to argue considering Gasol is a prized post player on the international level and in the NBA.
Regardless of the full details of the conversation, communication between a coach and an unsatisfied player is a positive sign for the team. Clearly, lack of communication is not just a problem on the defensive end of the floor for the Lakers.