Whether it’s Jeanie Buss, Phil Jackson himself or any number of his former players lamenting the Lakers decision to go with Mike D’Antoni and leave PJax on the outside looking in, there may be at least one member of the Lakers feeling a little worse about it than anyone else.
No one’s — at least no one on the roster — individual fortunes were affected more by that move by Mitch Kupchak and company than Pau Gasol.
Had Jackson been the one to ride in and save the day for the Lakers, Gasol’s transition would have been seamless.
He understands the Triangle offence, he thrives in the Triangle.
As it stands now, Gasol is the proverbial square peg not meshing with D’Antoni’s up-tempo offence and taking broadsides from the new head coach like the one following a loss in Memphis recently when D’Antoni was quoted saying he didn’t put Gasol back in the game in the fourth quarter because he wanted to win.
That was D’Antoni’s second game behind the bench. So much for easing in to a situation.
In the first two games under D’Antoni, Gasol played 38 and 37 minutes. In the next two his run has dropped to 27 and 28 minutes.
A report in the Los Angeles Times this week said the Lakers are not interested in trading the 7-foot power forward/centre, but one has to wonder whether that is something that is inevitable.
Given the poor fit — although in Gasol’s defence he is making every effort to adapt — and the fact that Dwight Howard is almost assuredly this team’s future and the two on the floor together is more duplication of skills than complimentary ones, it seems like a trade might be best for everyone involved.
TROUBLE IN CHI-TOWN
You had to expect there was going to be some long nights for the Bulls without their motor Derrick Rose.
But a Tom Thibodeau-coached team has always been able to hang its hat on its defence and it’s competitive fire in the past. Blowing a 27-point lead to the visiting Milwaukee Bucks, the bulk of it over the final 14 minutes does not bode well for this team.
The Bulls fell a game and a half out of the division lead after Milwaukee stormed back from that huge double-digit deficit to upend Chicago by a point.
“As soon as you start feeling good about yourself in this league, you get knocked on your ass,” a cheesed Thibodeau told reporters afterwards.
In his post-game analysis of the meltdown, Thibodeau called out his team for allowing the Bucks to make all the hustle plays that are usually the trademark of his own teams.
The Bulls remain the seventh-most stingy team in the NBA when it comes to giving up points, but are scoring just 94 a night which is the seventh worst.
Rose could wind up missing the entire season following major knee surgery, something many knowing how important he is to this team are actually advocating knowing how important full health would be.
As quickly as he would address that scoring problem, we can’t say we disagree.
AROUND THE RIM
The Philadelphia 76ers are allowing the fewest points a game in the NBA. They give up just 86.7 a night, which is great. Problem is they score an average of just 86.8, which is the least in the NBA. Still Doug Collins’ boys are a healthy 8-6 ... Nets forward Andray Blatche is enjoying a pretty decent season in Brooklyn after being amnestied by the Washington Wizards but he didn’t help himself when he mockingly asked reporters the other night “Anybody seen how the Wizards are doing.” That woud be the now 0-12 Wizards, the same Wizards that are still paying the vast majority of his salary this year ... For what it’s worth, Kobe Bryant now refers to Steve Nash as Gatsby ... Shane Battier is questionable for Thursday’s big tilt with San Antonio. The Heat forward suffered a slight knee sprain in Saturday’s win over Cleveland and did not practice with the team on Monday. Battier has started in all 13 Miami games so far this season ... Heavily favoured rookie-of-the-year candidate Anthony Davis of New Orleans will be out of action for at least two more weeks after an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his left ankle. Davis has not played since Nov. 17 with former Orlando forward Ryan Anderson starting in his spot.
THE TOP SEVEN (PLUS THE RAPTORS)
1. Memphis (10-2): They look a little odd on top, but they are the third best defensive team in the game with plenty of scoring to boot. Lionel Hollins has this team right where he wants them.
2. San Antonio (12-3): The only thing keeping them from No. 1 is concern that age will eventually catch up with them. Eight road wins already is extremely impressive.
3. Miami (10-3): Cruising along with nary a care in the world. So many options and Ray Allen fitting in perfectly, it’s almost unfair. Big test Thursday vs. Spurs.
4. Oklahoma City (11-4): Utter domination of the Bobcats on Sunday night has the Harden talk beginning to lessen just in time for a Houston visit Wednesday. Offensively No. 1 or 2 in NBA in just about every significant stat.
5. Brooklyn (9-4): Big statement win over visiting cross-town rival Knicks. They said this team couldn’t play defence but giving up fewer points than every team save the Philadelphia 76ers.
6. Atlanta (8-4): Hottest team in the Association right now with five straight wins. Like the Nets, showing some surprinsing defensive chops early on.
7. New York (9-4): Coming back to reality after red-hot start. Jason Kidd’s back problems are an indication of how quickly things can turn for a team this old, but Melo still heating it up.
28. Toronto (3-11): Four consecutive losses last week were a tough pill to swallow. Good news is they were in all of them and the defensive mindset they need is showing signs of returning. Oh, and can they get a call?
CLIPS STARS UPSET WITH COACH
Vinny Del Negro remains the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.
For how much longer, however, could be in question.
Following a loss to New Orleans on Monday night, Clippers centre pieces Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both at least hinted that they were outcoached.
And if Paul and Griffin are hinting at it publicly, given their status on that team, management has to take notice.
Paul was quoted as saying his Clippers “lost to a less-talented team that was well-coached.”
Read into that what you will.
Blake Griffin was a little more direct with his criticism, although, never directing it specifically at Del Negro.
“We tried to change some of the things we’ve been successful doing,” Griffin said.
It’s certainly not a case of either one calling for Del Negro’s head, but even a flood can start with a few drops of rain.
LOVE HATES HIS GLOVE
Kevin Love, by rights, should still be sidelined after breaking his hand doing knuckle pushups just before the season began.
But part of being a quick healer — he returned two or three weeks ahead of schedule — is taking extra precautions to ensure you don’t get re-injured coming back too early.
For Love, Minnesota’s top scoring threat when healthy, that meant wearing a padded glove that protected his hand, but Love has about had it with the glove.
“It’s very restricting,” Love said of the glove. “I can’t bend my hand back or my wrist back all the way with that on. I have no feel for the ball. That has a lot to do with it. It’s tough just having no feel for the basketball. It has been bothering my free throws, been bothering my three-point shot and every shot. It’s not an excuse. When you wear something restricting like that, it’s hard to be your normal self.”
Love tore the glove off Saturday in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to Golden State and practised without it on Monday.
Based on his post-practice comments, it’s expected Love will be glove-less from here on out.
HAWKS' HORFORD FLYING HIGH
After sitting out most of the 2011-2012 NBA season with a torn pectoral muscle, Al Horford is showing no signs of any rust.
In fact, the Atlanta Hawks centre is playing better than ever as his Eastern Conference player of the week honours would suggest.
Horford, as he pointed out to HoopsWorld recently, may not have been playing for much of last year, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t learning.
“I had a chance to grow last year by sitting out and watching the game,” Horford told the publication. “It gave me a different perspective on how the offense flows by watching Josh (Smith) and Zaza (Pachulia). I picked up things, which helped my game. So (being aggressive) was one of the things I tried to focus on this off-season.”
Having won five games in a row, the Hawks are the league’s hottest team right now, but Horford believes Atlanta is only getting started.
“I think we’re still adjusting,” Horford said referencing the lineup changes to the Hawks this year that included the departure of mainstay Joe Johnson. “I think we’re ways away from really clicking the way we want. It’s a good thing because we’re (8-4), but there is still room to grow.”
CURRY’S 'SWAG' RUBBING OFF
Stephen Curry has more than held his own in his first three seasons in the NBA.
But now in his fourth, and with the team urging him to take the reigns as the unofficial leader, Curry is doing more than ever.
Statistically, his shooting numbers may be a little down from previous years although he’s still averaging 18.4 points a night. But the big change has been his change in demeanour on the court. Instead of the quiet assassin of a year ago, Curry is a vocal presence on the court, whether he’s cheering after a defensive stand or celebrating a big three-pointer.
“There is a difference between confidence and trying to let everybody know that you’re good,” Curry told the Contra Costa Times. “But you have to have some kind of ... I hate that word, but ... ‘swag.’”
That ‘swag’ has rubbed off on his teammates and is a big part of the reason the Golden State Warriors are going to have a winning month of November and quite possibly a spot at the top of the Pacific division by month’s end.
Atlanta had a perfect 4-0 record last week holding its opponents to an average of 89 points a night. Now granted there were only two teams in that group with winning records, but based on how defensively challenged this team has been in the past, that has to constitute a drastic step up.