The L.A. Lakers Should Bench Mike D'Antoni Instead of Pau Gasol

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJanuary 19, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with Kkobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 after the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 95-90.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

According to ESPN, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is flirting with the idea of bringing forward Pau Gasol off the bench, and reportedly, Gasol is none to thrilled by the prospects.

"I've never come off the bench in my career," Gasol said. "(Thursday) was my first game off the bench with the Lakers, maybe a couple other games due to injuries, but that's it. I've been a starter my entire career. I've been a star starter my entire career, so I want to continue to be a star starter."

Gasol's statement does sound a bit selfish, and he may need to face the reality that his days of a "star starter" may be over, but it also illustrates a larger issue for D'Antoni and the Lakers.

Why can't D'Antoni find a way to utilize one of the most skilled big men in the NBA? And is Gasol's career-worst season more a reflection of his declining skills or an indictment of his seemingly clueless coach?

It seems like Gasol and D'Antoni have been at odds since D'Antoni accepted the job. While most of Gasol's failure to adapt to a new system was blamed on the absence of Steve Nash, Gasol hasn't seen much real improvement since Nash returned.

D'Antoni has asked Gasol to basically play the role of a stretch forward—or a post player who is comfortable extending his game to the perimeter. And even though Gasol does possess perimeter skills, he is much more comfortable in the paint.

So, how does D'Antoni alleviate the situation? By sending Gasol to the bench?

Relegating Gasol to reserve purgatory should be viewed as another display of ineptitude from a coach who has yet to show he truly deserves to lead the NBA's most recognizable franchise into the future.

I could understand if there was a hidden strategy behind D'Antoni's decision, but this seems more like the move of a coach who is grasping at straws or anything else that can improve an increasingly desperate situation.

God forbid that D'Antoni actually proves that he knows how to coach.

Some people (mostly Phoenix fans), have been under the impression that D'Antoni is a solid coach just based on his ability to create a scheme that focuses on scoring as many points possible in a short period of time.

But when D'Antoni has been forced to do things like make adjustments based on circumstances—you know, coach—he has failed miserably first in New York and now in Los Angeles.

It has been revealed that the emperor has no clothes, but even more depressing for Lakers fans is the perception that D'Antoni has no clue on how to fix the issues. Instead of offering strategy, D'Antoni only gives us useless platitudes about the merits of playing defense. Instead of offering his best low-post player more looks closer to the basket, he sends him to the bench.

And this was the coach who was supposed to bring "Showtime" back to L.A.?

That era seems like a distant memory when watching D'Antoni's Lakers on the court. And regardless of where the Lakers eventually finish, it won't be in the 2013 NBA Finals.

The Lakers are further away from the NBA Finals than they were in 2006, when D'Antoni's Suns were perceived as a legitimate title contender. Curiously, none of those Phoenix teams were able to find their way out of the West either.

On the other hand, Gasol already owns two titles. While he may not be the player that he was two or three seasons ago, he's still the most skilled big man D'Antoni has ever coached. And the fact that D'Antoni has no clue on how to use Gasol should be all the proof anyone needs that it's time for him to go.

It was a mistake for the Lakers to hire D'Antoni and his mismatched system in the first place, but it would be a bigger travesty to keep pretending that he can turn it around.