Gasol, D’Antoni clear ‘uncomfortable’ air
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The air has long since been cleared between Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni, and that’s saying something considering they work in a city where smog is as much a part of the landscape as those Los Angeles Lakers flags that still fly from passing cars.
But even without Kobe Bryant here at the outset, the two most important men in the Lakers’ new mission swear the regular season starts with an outlook as clear and bright as one of those rare days when you can see from Staples Center to the Hollywood Hills where departed big man Dwight Howard once resided. Gone are the days of placating the big man with the hopes that he’d re-sign, running the offense through him as a political ploy while the most skilled post player on the planet — yes, that’s Gasol — was mostly marginalized and pushed to the perimeter. And make no mistake, D’Antoni admits, it was nothing short of a season-long recruiting effort that made most basketball purists cringe, including him.
“It was very uncomfortable,” D’Antoni said about the Howard-Gasol dynamic last season. “I knew I was messing on (Gasol) last year. That’s not fair to him. But that was the situation we were in. How do we make the best of it? I was just trying to make the best of it. But no, it wasn’t fair to him.
“I think it was all (politics). It was all that. We wouldn’t do that (normally). If nobody had names on their jerseys, and we were just playing? You go through Pau. There’s not a question. No question.”
It’s certainly not a question anymore.
With the Lakers opening Tuesday night (10:30 ET, TNT) against the crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers and embracing this underdog distinction and hoping to shock the masses by sneaking into the playoffs six months from now, Gasol finally has his long-overdue chance to regain his rightful place in the league’s lexicon. He is a four-time All-Star and champion who was too soon forgotten, the 33-year-old free agent-to-be who had his ailing knees fixed during the summer and now wants … [For more on Pau Gasol, Mike D'Antoni clear up 'uncomfortable' air, click here.]