The Los Angeles Lakers are en route to Toronto on Saturday, but the team held a practice on Friday.
Friday’s practice was highlighted by some ambiguity regarding Pau Gasol’s role on Sunday against the Raptors. Prior to Thursday’s loss to the Miami Heat, Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni announced that Gasol would return to the starting lineup on Sunday and was only serving in a bench role due to conditioning reasons and lack of practice time.
At Friday’s practice, however, the coach was not so sure anymore and refused to commit either way as to whether Gasol would start or not. Considering D’Antoni played Gasol all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat, conditioning was not the reason Gasol may be downgraded to coming off the bench.
“Today’s a new day,” D’Antoni said when pressed on what changed in Gasol’s starting status between Thursday and Friday.
Gasol was surprised to hear that his starting status had been downgraded to uncertain, and he had not previously been told that his starting status was in doubt.
“I’m a believer that you have to put the best team on the floor,” Gasol said. “Hopefully, I’m part of that team.”
Gasol continued, “I’ve been a starter my entire career; I’ve been a star starter my entire career.”
“Starting does not matter,” D’Antoni contended. “Last 10 minutes of the game or last eight minutes, that matters.” Gasol partially agreed with that sentiment following Thursday's loss to the Heat but remained adamant that he should start.
When asked if he had talked to Gasol about being an impact player off the bench, D’Antoni responded, “Yea, we’ve talked about it.”
Gasol, however, was pretty clear that he had not heard anything about his status being downgraded from sure starter to uncertain starter until the media approached him at Friday’s practice.
Regardless of whether Gasol comes off the bench or starts, D’Antoni is not properly communicating with his players.
Metta World Peace was a player who was moved from the starting unit to the bench and back to the starting unit earlier in the season. When asked whether he had any advice to provide Gasol, World Peace said, “That’s between the player and the coach.”