Prior to the game, coach Mike D’Antoni made a move worthy of a desperate team.
He removed four-time All Star Pau Gasol from the starting lineup, replaced him with Earl Clark, and a new chapter in Lakers’ history may germinate with this repositioning.
Gasol told TNT that he doesn’t like the move and believes he could be gone soon as the trading deadline nears. And it’s not the first time Gasol expressed his apprehension about playing a reserve role.
After last Thursday night’s loss to Miami, Gasol said he didn’t mind coming off the bench because it was his first game back after being out with concussion symptoms. He added, though, that he wouldn’t be happy if it became a permanent thing. “No, that wouldn’t be good,” said the two-time NBA champion.
The following day at practice D’Antoni was repeatedly questioned about the Spaniard’s status and Gasol’s ability to play at the same time as Dwight Howard. He was evasive with most of his answers — nothing new for D’Antoni concerning any subject he’s uncomfortable talking about. Then he did a turnaround and added: “My job is to put the best team on the floor. If I feel (starting Gasol) is the best way to go, then we’ll go that way. If I don’t, it’s nothing personal.
“I have to do what I think is right, and I think every player has to accept that whether they like it or not. That’s the bottom line.
“Now, does he deserve to start? Yeah he does, he’s been here a long time. But if (he) doesn’t, you know what? You’ve got to go on. You’ve got to contribute. You’ve got teammates to think about and you have the Lakers to think about and you have to do what’s best for the Lakers. Whether we agree or not, that’s something else. We can agree to disagree.
“My job is to try and get the best team on the floor all the time and make it work. That doesn’t mean I’m not including him, that’s just my job. Starting does not matter. The last 10 minutes of a game matter, and that’s where we may have some problems.”
Against the Bulls, Gasol was in the game from the start of the fourth quarter, and the Lakers other big presence — Dwight Howard — entered the game at the 8:33 mark, possibly showing that D’Antoni hasn’t entirely given up on the idea of having the two bigs on the court at the same time.
Gasol finished with 15 points on 26 minutes of play, but the Lakers' road woes continued as the Bulls pulled out a 95-83 win.