Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before Tuesday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies that Pau Gasol’s recent public comments in which the veteran center expressed his displeasure with his role in the Lakers’ offense have been “blown out of proportion.”
So much, in fact, that D’Antoni jokingly took a jab at reporters when asked if the latest issues surrounding his star center are fixable.
“Not that any of you guys will make anything up, which is good,” D’Antoni said with a grin. “But a lot of times, things get blown out of proportion. It’s a little bit blown out of proportion, but he’s fine.”
That certainly hasn’t appeared to be the case in recent weeks.
Before star Kobe Bryant returned nine days ago from a torn Achilles tendon injury he sustained in early April, Gasol struggled immensely, most notably on the offensive end of the floor, where the 7-foot Spaniard and former Grizzly is averaging 14.5 points and shooting a career-worst 42.6 percent from the field.
Gasol’s subpar performance of late seemingly has given way to much frustration off the court. Last week, for instance, Gasol pinned blame on D’Antoni for being “misused” in his system, remarks that subsequently forced his coach to publicly criticize his player’s effort on the court.
However, on Tuesday, D’Antoni reiterated that his public verbal sparring with Gasol is now a “dead issue” and that the Lakers are devising ways to get the 13-year-veteran more involved offensively.
Gasol and Bryant scored 21 points each for the Lakers, who dealt the Grizzlies their fourth consecutive loss, 96-92, Tuesday in FedExForum.
“I think they’re already fixed,” D’Antoni said of the conflict between him and Gasol. “He’s played well the last couple of games. You know, Pau is one of the best players in the league and we’re going through a transitional period where we don’t have point guards out there. We had that same problem last year, and sometimes the big guys get missed. It’s a different system, but we want him to get the ball close to the basket as much as he can get it.”
Gasol’s recent criticism of D’Antoni coupled with his inconsistent play have prompted the Lakers to consider making the four-time All-Star available prior to the NBA trade deadline, according to various media reports. However, when asked after the game if he believes he will remain with the team through season’s end, the 33-year-old Gasol said his future with the organization lies solely with the Lakers’ front office.
Traded by Memphis to the Lakers in February 2008 for younger brother (Grizzlies center) Marc Gasol after spending seven seasons with the Grizzlies, Pau is in the final year of a three-year deal and is owed $19.3 million.
“If I’m still here, I’m here,” Pau said after managing 9-of-12 field goals in 32-plus minutes. “I can’t keep pace with what the team wants to do. If they come up with a good deal or good offer, I’m sure they’ll think about it. I know that for a fact. But I can’t control that.”
As for his recent issues with his coach, Pau was in agreement with D’Antoni that cooler heads will ultimately prevail.
“It’s a dead issue,” Pau said. “There’s nothing going on, no tension or nothing. So many people made a big deal out of it the last couple of games. I took advantage of it by stirring the pot a little bit. That’s what happens in a big market. A franchise like the Lakers, you’re going to always have stuff like that, someone creating stories. So it sells papers and people will talk about it.”