Yesterday, when asked about his thoughts regarding watching the end of the 4th quarter from the bench, Pau Gasol made his opinions known with a clear and direct message. "It's something I don't like, and don't appreciate", the Spaniard said. One can understand his frustration, since he's had a nice run of form the past few games. He has rediscovered his efficient scoring touch, and even in games like yesterday's in which he only scored seven points, he still has an overall skill set that leads to other contributions. Yesterday, it was 7 boards and 7 assists (in just 21 minutes). Then again, it seems pretty clear that his demotion to the bench has "worked". Earl Clark is continuing to provide great energy and versatility in the starting lineup, and Pau Gasol is far too smart not to realize that the lineup change is what is affording him all those low post touches he craves.
But this isn't about who starts the game. It's about who finishes it. Whether Pau Gasol should finish the game is an interesting question. There's little question that the Lakers' best defensive unit is one that has Pau sitting on the bench in favor of Earl Clark. If Kobe is engaged, a Bryant-MWP-Clark-Howard lineup can help to erase the defensive sieve that is Steve Nash. The middle part of that lineup is especially versatile, because Clark, MWP, and even Bryant (against small ball fours) can all guard any of the 2-3-4 positions. So, in certain situations, there is a strategic case to be made that Pau Gasol would be on the outside looking in to close a contest.
There's just one problem: Pau Gasol wasn't sitting last night so that the Lakers could play their strongest defensive lineup. He was sitting so the Lakers could play one of the weakest defensive players in the NBA. Antawn Jamison had a pretty good game yesterday, scoring 16 points off the bench on close to 50% shooting. He even scored a basket in the final minute that sealed L.A.'s victory. But there is simply no logical explanation for what he was doing on the court in the last four minutes of the game, as the Laker lead plummeted from 18 points down to a one possession game.
Antawn Jamison should not be part of any Los Angeles Lakers closing lineup
Silver Screen And Roll | Jan 30