In my opinion, Pau’s teammates, who vehemently defend his place on the team, are right. It isn’t us, the viewers, who are playing night in and night out on the floor, but them. He has always been the subject of trade rumors and receives scrutiny for being too soft, and amidst this he has always been cordial with the Lakers organization, showing he is a true team player. Thus it is horrific that Pau Gasol recieves all the criticism, because he is a team leader and all around good guy. The one who should receive the majority of the blame is the Lakers’ head coach, Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni has been attempting to use his run-and-gun system that gave him great success in Phoenix on this Lakers roster. But what he didn’t have back in Phoenix was an aging roster and two seven footers on the floor. There is no possible way to expect two men towering above the rest to play like their shorter counterparts. The only thing similar to his days with the Phoenix Suns is the presence of Lakers point-guard Steve Nash, who is not the man he used to be five years ago. And as expected in D’Antoni’s system, he has been underutilizing one of the most skilled big men in the league, Pau Gasol, and as a result his numbers this season have been underwhelming. For the first time in his career, the all-star has been demoted to the bench and even remained there during the fourth quarter of tight games.
Another correlation can be made to the way Mike D’Antoni has habitually coached, and the success of this Lakers squad. He has always been the type of coach to put offense first, with defense taking the back seat, but his defective offense has forced the Lakers to move the ball and essentially play pickup basketball. He should now realize that it’s not the scoring that is the problem, but the defense. The Lakers often build themselves double digit leads, and in the fourth quarter they see these same leads cut down to make it a nail biter at the end.
So to recap: D’Antoni has discarded his system, underutilized his larger players, and put no premium on defense. This should raise some red flags, because the Lakers are doing just as badly under him as they were under the previous mid-season firing of Mike Brown. Since coaches are obviously a dime a dozen for the Lakers, maybe the organization could take a look into the past, where five Lakers championships lie. I don’t mean to be the typical Lakers fan, but now seems about the right time to call the infamous former Phil Jackson! He has had plenty of experience with his eleven championships as a former Lakers head coach. He knows how to deal with star-laden rosters as in during his years with the Bulls and previous Lakers teams. To further exemplify his fitting for the team, he knows how to run defenses. But to top it all off, he knows how to coach tall men! For example, has anyone ever heard of Shaquille O’Neal? Well if you haven’t then I’ll refresh you. He won three consecutive championships, and at 7’1”, he is widely considered one of the most dominant big men to ever play the game. PJ has worked with Kobe and Pau before, winning two championships in tandem with the both of them. I am not saying to fire Mike D’Antoni right now in the middle of the season, because that would add further instability to this already chaotic season for the Lakers. But maybe next season, when this whole Mike D’Antoni experiment has failed, the Lakers should call Phil Jackson.