The Los Angeles Lakers’ pitch to try to convince Dwight Howard to stay started long before billboards sprung up around L.A.

Some six months before the billboards appeared in positioning Howard as the franchise's future the Lakers put Pau Gasol in the past and often on the bench.

“We did have a free-agent market last year we had to be aware of and you make certain arguments based on the future” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “Whether they’re right or wrong that’s the reality of it and we went that way but it was never meant to be a slight to (Gasol) or never meant to be that he was the cause of our problems.”

While health certainly had something to do with it -- Gasol’s knees feet and head (a concussion) caused him to miss 33 games last season -- Gasol was aware of the ground shifting beneath him as the Lakers gravitated towards Howard.

“It was at times frustrating because of the reality of that specific situation” Gasol told ESPNLosAngeles.com in a phone interview from Barcelona. “Obviously the franchise wanted Dwight to stay and everyone or a lot of people tried to make him comfortable and please him at times.”

Now with Howard out of the picture the Lakers’ Plan B is to go back to Plan A and make Gasol the team’s primary option down low.

“There was just a lot of factors last year that won’t come up this year” D’Antoni said. “I even told (Gasol) you make decisions based a lot of times on the future that probably if you were just doing the competitive basketball thing the decision would have been something else.”

The decision going forward at least for next season (with Gasol in the last year of his contract and the Lakers set to pay him $19.3 million) is to go back to orbiting around the four-time All-Star.

“I expect him to have the best year he’s ever had coming up” D’Antoni recently told ESPN LA 710 radio.

Whether that’s just lip service or not may be up to Gasol.