The Los Angeles Lakers are 7-8 right now. After winning in Mike D’Antoni’s debut, this team has dropped three of its last four games in puzzling fashion.
Why has it been puzzling? Well, because according to the numbers, the Lakers should not be as bad as they currently are.
This squad ranks in the top 10 offensively and defensively, and Kobe Bryant is having his best season in a decade. Yes, Pau Gasol is struggling. Yes, Dwight Howard hasn’t fully recovered yet. Yes, Steve Nash is out. But even with all that taken into account, the team’s extremely easy early schedule should have translated into way more than seven wins in 15 tries.
And yet it hasn’t. For whatever reason, the Lakers can’t seem to get their act together. D’Antoni is running into the same exact dilemma that Mike Brown faced: how do you fix an underperforming team when nobody is entirely sure what ails it?
When team brass doesn’t know how to fix problems, typically they resort to their default setting – making changes. That’s why Brown was fired, because a change needed to be made. The next change that the Lakers will make, if this ship doesn’t find its course? A Pau Gasol trade.
As it stands Gasol is having the worst season he has ever had as a Laker, and two games ago he found himself benched in the fourth quarter because of how bad he looked. When pressed on what he was thinking when he benched a guy that is owed more than $38 million over the next two years, D’Antoni said: "I was thinking I'd like to win this game, that's what I was thinking."
Yesterday, reporters tried to see if D’Antoni’s truly wants Gasol on his team.
"I don't get it," the Lakers coach replied, when asked about the Gasol trade rumors that been floating around (via the Los Angeles Daily News). "It definitely doesn't come from us. But it's like New York. In Los Angeles, that's what you guys do. That's good. You guys talk and most of the stuff is wrong. You get people interested. I'm OK with that."
And what about the idea that Gasol doesn’t fit into D’Antoni’s system?
"He's another seven-footer who can guard the rim and he's extremely smart," D'Antoni said. "So there's no reason why he can't fit. Ideally, you'd want a guy like Jesse Owens who can run. But he's a big part of what we're going to do.
"I don't see how a player as smart as he is, as talented as he is and efficient as he is, doesn't fit in anybody's schemes," he continued. "I got to reevaluate myself if I can't play with Pau Gasol. Come on. He's won two championships."
So there you have it. For now, D’Antoni is saying all the right things. Remember, though, these guys all have one default setting. If the Lakers don’t get their act together, they will resort to it regardless of what gets said publicly.
(Kudos Los Angeles Daily News)