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Pau Gasol: Lakers Must Avoid a Panic Trade of Struggling Big Man

November 18, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) and power forward Pau Gasol (16) laugh during the game against the Houston Rockets at the Staples Center. Lakers won 119-108. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2012

While we're still in the infancy of the Mike D'Antoni era as Los Angeles Lakers head coach, it's pretty safe to say things haven't gone swimmingly for power forward Pau Gasol.

In the three games since D'Antoni fully took the reins from Bernie Bickerstaff, Gasol has floundered in two of them.

The 32-year-old forward put up just eight points, nine rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes in Wednesday night's loss to the Brooklyn Nets. And to follow up that performance, he managed a mere six points and four rebounds on Friday as the team fell to the Memphis Grizzlies, 106-98.

The latter game is certainly the one that will cause the most commotion. With Gasol struggling, D'Antoni sat his starting power forward down the stretch and kept him firmly on the bench. When asked why he chose to sit Gasol, the Lakers' coach gave a rather telling answer, according to the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding:

Why did D'Antoni sit Pau down the stretch? "I was thinking I'd like to win this game, that's what I was thinking."

— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) November 24, 2012

 

With that quote, it seems apparent that the trade rumor mills will begin swirling once again. However, the Lakers would be remiss if they panic and decide to start shopping Gasol on the open market. 

First and foremost, patience is a virtue, folks. The organization already made one massive panic move by firing Mike Brown and hiring D'Antoni. It's certainly not time to create more upheaval with a roster overhaul. 

Gasol has struggled in two games...he hasn't become an endemic problem that continually sucks the life out of the Lakers' roster. 

In fact, despite his struggles, Gasol has still been the Lakers' second-best player in terms of impact this season. Coming into Friday night's game, Gasol has a simple rating—which measures production of how the team does when he's on and off the floor—of a positive 15.9 (per 82Games.com).

The only other Lakers player with a positive rating above 10 is Kobe Bryant. Dwight Howard's simple rating? A paltry 1.1.

What's more, all but one of the Lakers' five-man units with a "win percentage" of at least .500 include Gasol, according to 82Games.com

That's not to say Gasol is some untouchable angel whose play should not be criticized. Coming into Friday night, he was averaging career lows in points per game (14.0) and shooting percentage (43.0). If those numbers look familiar, it's because they're not dissimilar to the ones Gasol put up in his disappearing acts of the last two postseasons. 

For Gasol's part, some of his poor play can be attributed to how he's being used. According to ESPN's Arash Markazi, the forward would like to see more opportunities in the post:

Pau Gasol tells @ramonashelburne "all of my looks are jump shots, I would like to see something closer to the basket."

— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 24, 2012

 

Regardless of his happiness within the offense, Gasol—along with just about every Laker not named Bryant—needs to pick up his play, and fast. After the loss to Memphis, the team is 6-7 on the season and winless away from the Staples Center. 

But when pundits try to make Gasol out to be the "odd man out" in Los Angeles, it's playing more to a narrative than anything. 

Gasol is just part of the problem. He isn't the problem. All trading him would do is signal more weakness for a team that's already beginning to look like a sinking ship.

 

(All individual and unit stats used are up to date as of Nov. 22.)


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