Is Pau Starting to Figure it Out?

Darius Soriano —  February 4, 2013

We’re going to play a little guessing game. Are you ready? Good. Let’s go.

Below are the stats of four players, all adjusted per 36 minutes of production:

  • Player A: 16.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 50.9% shooting
  • Player B: 12.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 41.7% shooting
  • Player C: 16.9 points, 13.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 51.4% shooting
  • Player D: 17.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 60.5% shooting

All four players are pretty productive in their own way. Players A, B, and C are all good scorers who shoot a high percentage and grab rebounds at a very good rate. Player B isn’t a great scorer (mostly due to his poor shooting percentage), but he’s a very good passer who still rebounds well. Any of these four players would help a team win games and would likely be a welcomed addition to any team looking for a strong big man option to anchor them in the pivot.

Ready to find out who’s who?

Player A is Pau Gasol when Dwight Howard is out of the game. Player B is Pau when he shares the floor with Dwight. Player C is Dwight Howard when Pau is out of the game. And player D is Dwight when he shares the floor with Pau. To some, these numbers probably reflect exactly what we’ve seen with our eyes for most of this season. They also reflect a certain dilemma the Lakers face this season. Namely, that getting the most out of their big men isn’t as easy as it may seem.

First, let’s look at Dwight Howard since his production is mostly consistent. For all the talk that Dwight is having a poor season, I’d claim that those conclusions are a bit off base. Dwight has not been the dominant player he was before his back surgery. You see it in how he moves around the floor, how active he is on defense, and (especially) in how he’s been turning the ball over when he’s swarmed inside.

However, what’ also true is that Dwight’s been a pretty productive player when he’s been on the floor. He’s shooting a high percentage, is one of the best rebounders in the league, and is still an intimidator in the paint. Furthermore, what we see is that Dwight is productive whether he’s sharing the floor with Pau or not. His numbers are mostly flat and it’s clear that he’s able to do what he does best whether Pau is flanking him or on the pine.

What we also see, however, is that Dwight does benefit from having Pau on the floor with him. Dwight’s scoring is slightly better and his field goal percentage is much better. This should not be a surprise. When they share the floor, Gasol is consistently looking for Dwight inside to try and set him up for easy baskets. When both bigs share the floor, the Lakers play a lot of high-low with Pau at the elbow and Dwight carving out space in the paint. This action develops in the Lakers HORNS sets and when Pau acts as a release valve in the P&R where, after Dwight rolls to the hoop, Pau gets a pass and then floats up a lob that Dwight snatches from orbit and flushes through the basket. There is definite chemistry between the two, even if it’s a one way chemistry (where Pau is setting up Dwight).

Pau, on the other hand, has not had the same success next to Howard. From the list above, player B is the least productive of the bunch and, based off his shooting efficiency, could even be described as a liability on offense (though that’d be a stretch and wouldn’t be a term I’d use). We’ve been over this multiple times and the reasons are clear why. Pau, when next to Howard, isn’t as aggressive as a player in terms of his shot locations. Pau trades shots inside for those further away from the hoop and his efficiency suffers because of it.

The Pau we see when Howard is out, however, is a different player. He shoots nine percentage points higher and is better from every spot on the floor except for the 10-14 foot range and shots behind the arc. When Howard is not in the game, 60% of Pau’s shots come inside of 9 feet with 38% of those coming in the restricted area. Basically, Pau becomes the player that Kobe described as “they guy who helped us win back to back championships”.

The issue, of course, is finding a way to get the most out of both players over the course of an entire game. And, namely, getting more out of Gasol when he shares the floor with Dwight. After all, Dwight’s already a slightly better offensive player when Pau is in the game. The problem is that Pau’s production falls off a cliff when they play together.

The running narrative, of course, is that Pau needs to play more in the post. But I’d posit it is actually much more complicated than that. While the numbers I posted above are true (Pau does shoot closer to the basket when Howard is on the bench), Pau will always be a player who plays an all court game offensively. Even with Howard on the bench, 35% of Pau’s shots come between 10 and 24 feet. We see this play out in games all the time when Pau still floats around the perimeter even though he’s the only big man in the game.

So, I’d argue the key is less about finding more ways to get Pau closer to the hoop, but instead finding more ways to utilize him as more than a release valve who is put in position to be a scorer so far from the hoop. Too often, Pau becomes the player who receives the first pass out of the P&R even when he’s not the player who set the screen. When the defense takes away the roll, it’s Pau who gets the ball and he usually gets it without a defender near him, giving him a chance to shoot a wide open jumper. In D’Antoni’s offense, when in that position, you’re supposed to shoot the ball. More often than not, Pau obliges even though it’s not a shot he should be taking so often.

How to fix this isn’t that easy, but there are ways to do so. One way is to use Gasol more as a screener while Dwight camps along the baseline. This can be a very effective action and has proven a real weapon for the Lakers this season (and last) and for other teams that have the ability to run the P&R with one big man while the other occupies defenders waiting for a secondary pass around the rim. Another is to have a secondary action available after the initial P&R to run with Pau after he acts as a release valve. The Spurs often run a secondary hand off action on the weak side between Duncan and Ginobili after Parker runs a P&R on the strong side that doesn’t yield a quick basket.

Pau can also get more aggressive by working off the dribble after making the catch rather than just settling for the jumper. That would require Howard to vacate the lane so Pau has time to use his dribble to maneuver closer to the rim, but that’s a minor adjustment that can come with better chemistry as both guys start to read each other better.

Ultimately, though, we do need to start to see more from this duo when they share the floor. To be fair, the Lakers have already started to play better as a group when Pau and Dwight share the floor. In their last 5 games together, Dwight and Pau have shared the floor for 64 minutes and the team is a plus-11 in those minutes. And Pau, individually, has been putting up much better numbers of 16.3 points on 59% shooting (per 36 minutes) when on the floor with Dwight in that stretch. But, for the season this has not been a positive pairing and is one reason that Pau moving to the bench was a supportable decision. The recent trend will need to be a long term shift for the Lakers to really succeed.

Recent games tell us that Gasol is far from in decline as a player. Against a good, young Pistons’ front line Pau more than held his own while playing heavy minutes. His offensive game is just as refined as it has been throughout most of his career. And while his defense needs work, he’s worlds better than what he was earlier in the season when he suffered from knee tendonitis.  They key, now, is to get something close to this level of production when both share the floor. The recent numbers are encouraging, but the team needs more of it.

If they get it, watch out. The team will be  ready to make a run.

*Stats for this post courtesy of NBA.com

Darius Soriano

Posts

66 responses to Is Pau Starting to Figure it Out?

  1. Re-posted from the game thread with a nod to Harvey M:

    Harvey M-

    Nice post. Pau is basically a 5, but to maximize him, you need a certain type of 4 with him:

    big
    mobile
    good D
    can hit boards
    plays away from hoop on O

    Guys like that are hard to find, but the Lakers had a good one–Odom. Clark is not nor will he ever be Lamar, but he provides some of the same things–length, mobility, not a post-up guy. So I am not surprised that Pau has done well playing two games at the 5 with Clark at the 4.

  2. How about the Turn over stats of both guys and the FT’s they missed and converted. The dilemma during close games is who would the coach have as the Center? Dwight who can be fouled by the opposing team and miss FT’s or Pau who can be a defensive liability at the other end of the floor?
    As to having Pau as a starter, I would rather start Pau over Clark and give him an early rest and let him anchor the second unit during the second quarter. In that case Pau will be starting, anchoring the second unit, playing with starters minutes and finishing the game if it warrants him to do so.

  3. rr: I saw your post and enjoyed it as always. Of course I will not be responding as I am no longer speaking on that subject until months from now. That said – yes – you still have a job in my FO. I encourage such healthy disagreement. I have heard rumors that such disagreement is not universally encouraged in all front offices (not being specific as to where that might be the case).
    Pau: I think it is clear that he has not dropped off the map from a capability standpoint (as some thought). He may not be in 2009 form, but he is still one of the top 20-25 players in the league if utilized properly. Dwight is still the top big man in the game. Yes, it might be difficult to figure out, but I would rather have this issue than have let’s say the Wizard’s roster. That is not hard to figure out.

  4. Thanks IT or is it RR?,

    I do agree, but also want to pick up on Darius’s excellent post here. While Pau with a 4 you describe and yes you are exactly right on the composition of that 4, (and yes, Earl Clark is likely to never be Lamar, but you never know how he may develop in say 3 years), is ideal and closest to how he has already suceeded, I too am starting to see more from the Pau/Dwight duo, and am very pleased that Darius has picked up on that, and proposed some solution/ideas about a continuation of that development.

    Because if there can be a configuration with these two, and it can run at the beginning of the 4th, and really with those two out there, you may not need/want Nash or Kobe, so you can add in some of the better defenders in say Metta and Earl and have Steve Blake run it, (for e.g.) than that solves just a ton of problems including the recent 4th quarter melt downs. I think they used something like this group against OKC and/or Utah, in the recent wins and they were very effective especially at the beginning of the 4th, and really helped set up the W.

    I think the recent Pau controversy started when NO (perhaps as a way to counter this???) employed a super small line-up, at the beginning of the 4th quarter, I think, to force Dantoni to go small to counter.

  5. I know you cannot just compare percentagepoints, without looking a the amount of shots taken, but when Gasol’s FG% drops about 10 percentage points while assists increase, and Dwights goes up about 10 percentage points, then it is still more or less a wash.

    The offense will probably still get better (fewer turnovers from Dwight and a little higher efficiency from Pau… but it is on defense that we get the trouble, when neither Dwight nor Pau is fast enough to defend the faster 4-men of the league.

  6. Robert,

    WWL: As many have (so I am not picking on you), you mentioned Phil in your response. Some of us did want him, but let’s forget him for now. I want positive things and reasons for MD to be our coach. Saying Phil would not do any better is not saying anything good about MD. True? If you are saying that we are so bad that nobody can coach us, then that makes sense, but I don’t agree. And it also kinda gives the incumbent coach a free ride – true?

    I am mentioning Phil as a response to Ken saying that “Also questioning why you hire a coach who failed so bad in his last job.” Phil failed miserably in his last stint with us, in contrast to Mike Brown succeeding heavily on his last one.

    Don’t take me out of context.

  7. Interesting write-up Darius. Good job. Sorry about 49ers.

    I will be acting as Metta’s attorney on the alleged punch.

    “You see my client could not have punched the plaintive your Honor, Mr Peace is shooting just 28% from the field the past six games. Clearly he could not hit a whale with a coconut from five feet and therefore must be found innocent of any and all charges of hitting
    anything or anyone”,

    That will be $600 in fees Mr. Peace.

    Thank you very much.

  8. A good coach can figure out how to use both bigs …..and get them to perform at max levels

    ======================================================================

    Such as… Mike Brown?

  9. There are two sides of the ball, and evidence of Pau’s decline on defense should be well-known. As a PF, he cannot keep up with anyone in transition, and has a hard time closing off the lane when his man takes him off the dribble. In his natural 5 position, he’s better, but still offers very little resistance to opposing guards who penetrate the lane (see, e.g., Will Bynum).

    Pau’s latest resurgence simply demonstrates why I’m hopeful some team will want to trade for him. As a 5, he’s still got a top level NBA game on offense and if paired with a decent defensive 4, he can be very effective.

  10. Funky – I 100% agree. There has been too much flack with MDA not utilizing Pau properly, I say he is equally responsible for not adjusting… but overall, its about fit. Pau is simply not athletic enough to play PF anymore. Its not a question of willingness, its a matter of capability.

    Thats why its not very surprising the amazing numbers he have as the team’s lone big. He is still by far, most probably, the league’s best offensive center in the game. Better than Marc.

  11. Great post. Reinforces something I see on the offensive end. Pau makes a real effort to get good looks for Dwight. Dwight does not return the favor.

    Part of the reason Pau is less effective with Dwight on the floor is that Dwight is a black hole. When he gets the ball in the post he is determined to shoot. Often horrible stuff. He NEVER looks for Pau once he has the ball.

    Dwight, as limited as his low post repertoire is, especially with his physical limits, could really improve the team by looking to create more out of the post.

  12. Agree with Funky here; our offense has not been our problem, even with Pau still trying to figure things out with Dwight.

    It’s our defense with both bigs out there that’s been a problem. Both need to be flanked with a true 4 unless Dwight can somehow guard opposing fours, but that would take away his biggest strength as a shot blocker/alterer.

    Wonder why we don’t employ the zone. In theory our length would just maximize any kind of zone, with Kobe hounding the ball in a box-one format if necessary.

  13. Harold, I’ve wondered about the use of a zone. For a coach with a reputation of having no defensive system, you’d think the zone would appeal to MDA. I wonder how a 1-3-1 zone would work, with Kobe at the top, the middle row anchored with Pau in the middle and Nash & MWP on the wings, and DH12 manning the last line of defense. Such a scheme would put the Lakers best on-ball defender out front, and allow Nash & Metta to play the shooters, with our bigs still patrolling the paint.

    Maybe this is a gimmick, but the way this team has played defense, it’s hard to believe that this would be a worse system than what we’ve seen….

  14. Darius

    Was my post just a little funny? Being held for critical applause?
    Or not?

  15. Amen, Darius.

    Pau and Dwight can be used together.

    Pau has to be more aggressive, driving the ball for a dunk when he gets the ball at the elbow, rather than settling for jumpers. If he threatens a dunk, he can also go for a closer jumpshot or a hook shot like Kareem, or inside pass to Dwight to dunk. Pau has the dribbling skills of a guard. He should utilize it more often to get himself a higher percentage shot.

    Detroit has two aggressive big men that go for the dunk all the time when they play together. Pau should emulate them when playing with Dwight in his aggressiveness. After all, should the defense swarm Pau, he has a release valve in Dwight for a lob or inside pass for a dunk.

    Two talented bigs swarming the basket on offense can be a very intimidating monster. With Earl at small forward, that can be an even more intimidating lineup. Ron can play shooting guard and Kobe or Nash can play point guard in this lineup.

  16. When the obvious is not being attempted, something more obvious must be at work that I’m missing.

    Don’t know what that is, but then again I don’t get paid to do anything basketball related, so can’t shed much light on why it is that the Lakers don’t bother using a zone.

    Maybe it somehow makes Dwight less useful? Kobe more listless? Challenges the collective manhood of our team? More physically/mentally draining? Not as useful against teams with more than a couple shooters?

    Or, just not as useful against most teams and only finds success against a few teams, namely… us?

  17. Great breakdown and analysis Darius, thanks
    @KOOO – `…your Honor, Mr Peace is shooting just 28% from the field the past six games. Clearly he could not hit a whale with a coconut from five feet…´
    LOL, hilarious !

  18. The zone is a very effective tool against teams with deficient range. We are one of those teams. Also, defensive philosophies create a force of habit that cannot be employed as one but rather have to be used selectively on particular matchups.

    MDA choosing not to employ a zone has alot to do with our team’s offensive philosophy which is to run and take the best shot as early as possible. This proves to be somewhat exclusive when teams we’re facing can both shoot and have good transition defense.

    Defense is a vague term. Our team is known to play little or none due to our personnel. While its best to be a master of both ideally, we have to know our limits as well.

    Collectively, out offensive talent is what will win us some games. No use trying to be a Mike Brown team when our guys aren’t at their best doing so. Look at Memphis, they are a top notch team defensively but they’re also a weak offensive team thus their trades. Overall, I think its better to have an identity and master one speciality rather than do both in mediocrity.

  19. “I am mentioning Phil as a response to Ken saying that “Also questioning why you hire a coach who failed so bad in his last job.” Phil failed miserably in his last stint with us, in contrast to Mike Brown succeeding heavily on his last one.”

    It is time to end this myth. Phil did not fail in his last season. He got the Lakers to the 2nd round of the playoffs, only to be defeated badly by a awesome Dallas team who were made that year to beat the Lakers. Phil also had his team winning two titles in a row before that last run. Forgive him that he could not accomplish the easy 4 time 3 peat. I admit Phil lost his edge and seemed not to care anymore, but but lets stop comparing Mike D and Potato Head to him, because there is no comparison. I find it highly doubtful Mike D gets this team into the playoffs, let alone the 2nd round.

  20. People might want to check out the Howard interview up in the corner.

  21. Pau should act with more aggression. Dwight is after all injured and is likely to stay injured until 6 months after he decides on surgery to repair his shoulder. This will keep Dwight injured and limited until March 2014 at the earliest.

  22. Perfect Joe.

  23. Nobody is trying to compare Phil to Mike D. or Mike B. However, we all agree that Phil was somewhat mailing it in in his last year with the Lakers. He had previously said he was considering retiring that year, but hung on, While the team had issues that did not include Phil, it was also true that he contributed to some of those issues, both because he was a bit burnt out and because the league’s play has changed – Phil didn’t. He felt his way was best – evidenced by 11 championships – and he wasn’t about to adjust. Compare him to Pops, who hasn’t yet burned out, and you see a coach who is still changing with the times, even while he demands complete control of his team. At the end Pops was a better coach than Phil, even if he hadn’t been prior to then (IMO).

    The point of all this is that Phil has had his time and there is reason to think that he wouldn’t be the best choice for this new team – hence the front office deciding on Mike D. This may not be popular on this blog, but it is a plausible point-of-view.

    All that said, we should put these Phil comparisons and ‘what ifs’ behind us and simple deal with solving the problem the team faces today, with all the CBA and player limitations we are dealing with today.

  24. I don’t understand why Pau won’t accept his 6th man role. Sure the twin tower lineup might work with better coaching, but 3 coaches(Phil, Brown and d’antoni) could not and cannot figure out how. Gasol is simply too slow to guard 4s and when playing with Dwight clogs the paint. In that article, Gasol said something about leaving if things continue to not work out for him. So perhaps it would be best to just trade him. Sell high and maybe get some decent bench players or picks in return.

  25. It

    Great Simers read. Clearly to me this appears to not be a mike D deal but a decision made by some or all if the front office.

    It’s all in for Dwight and the heck with Pau and for that matter the season. Someone has decided despite his obvious flaws, Dwight Howard is the future of the Lakers.

    If he resigns and if us fans buy in to him that is Both are questionable in my opinion. Wonder if others feel he can be the focal point and franchise player for the next 5 years. Is he West, Kareem, Magic, Shaq and Kobe? Hummmmmmmmm.

  26. If that Simers article taught me anything, it’s that Pau is a nice person, who is not just nice to players and arena janitors, but even to Simers.

  27. I think it’s funny that my handle comes out as “It” for some reason when KOOO and others address me. Reminds me of Cousin It from the Addams Family.

  28. Your right rr. On an iPad the small type shows as “it” but when you blow it up it’s rr. From now in it’s just rrrrrrrrrrr to me.

  29. A-ha–it is an IPad thing. Thanks for the clarifcation. Maybe I should be RR.

  30. Read the Pau article…not being a life long lakers fan, I see just an addiction to the drama…with media types needing to feed the “story” every day. Most of that was kind of obvious, in that Dantoni likes to play a particular way and that forces a choice between the two. Yet somehow Pau is averaging 33.5 mins a game, so to me its a little over inflated, as he is clearly getting some pretty good burn, and I would be surprised if he actually had that many more mins in prior years.

    By the way that puts him in a virtual tie with Dwight (actually averaging 1.2 mins less than Dwight), Metta, and Nash for second most (average minutes) on the team with Kobe as the only outlier at 38.7. So whether he is starting or not he is playing virtually the exact same mins as Dwight. And even if that is skewed by circumstances, (like maybe Dwight’s average mins are weighed down by games where he was in foul trouble or injured part way through) the fact is that Pau is getting, in terms of statistical significance, no less PT than anybody not named Kobe.

    Obviously, some of it is just Dantoni bloopers (and I have been surprised by how many there have been), and some articles that are published about his “demotion” but to me its mostly much ado about nothing. Dwight is favored because he is younger and has more upside and more years ahead where he can dominate, though clearly Pau has a much more developed offensive game. And Dwight has an advantage as the only defensive “specialist” of the big 4.

    I do really hope they get the twin towers thing going, as even I, as a more or less Dantoni supporter, think that something would be lost, if they were unable to translate that particular advantage into some on court results.

  31. Hey rr RR!

    It wasn’t the intention of the post to slight Phil. For someone who has even the slightest of ideas, Phil’s resume is just you wouldn’t dare compare to anyone. Even Red cannot claim it since his time was simply different. Phil managed to transform himself and the teams he had to legitimate and intimidating contenders which all other teams in the league hated. But with pressure and adversity he thrived… that along with the greatest players to ever hold the leather ball.

    I get it, some posters are banding together. For all thats said and done this isn’t supposed to be personal, but if you want it to be, so be it. This atmosphere of divide is almost identical to what I sense the locker room has for the Lakers. Kobe and Pau and Metta are one group, Nash and MDA are another, and it seems to me Dwight has his own peeps too.

    What I find rather amusing is that the ones joining together in this regard (not the locker room) nearly have the same things to say – both on Dwight and MDA and with clear hate and disregard for the front office. Some of us, call it as it is. Some give it a little bit more time to call it. A few like me, believe in the track record that the front office has of “getting it done” rather than nitpick every tiny detail that went wrong and choosing to disregard the ones that are due credit.

    Comments are what they will be. Commenters, seemingly are also never going to change. Its just sad to me that the place is filled with commenters that conveniently change their names, or some, copy the names of others just to have company or approve of their own posts.

  32. For all that Dwight is not, he is our next franchise player. For all that MDA is not, he too is our current and future coach. To keep on repeating the same points over and over again endlessly with no new data or improvement from the last one just gets old. But hey, I’m getting used to it.

  33. Dwight will not be a franchise player until he decides to learn from other great centers and expand his game.
    And also, his attitude is just not right. I remember 2009 finals, maybe it was game 4 (decisive one), and it was a little confrontation between Kobe and Howard: Kobe looked at Howard like he was a real enemy, but for Dwight it was all joking around, he was surprised Kobe looked at him this way. And JVG, who was commenting the finals, made a good point that Howard should grow up and understand that it’s NBA finals, it’s not a time for fooling around. Even if Dwight tried to do so, he failed and chose to go back to his joking ways.
    Just a little remark: I don’t remember Shaq smiling after missing free-throws in a big game.

  34. “I’m always trying to pass to Dwight to get him going. He hasn’t been very effective from the post, so I want to give him easy shots and get him into rhythm. You know he’s going to get fouled and then he’ll make one out of two.”

    Albeit its truth, this is a divisive comment.

    “I believe 100% if I was starting inside with Dwight we could make the playoffs. I just don’t know if coming off the bench gives the team a chance to be better and win more games.”

    I understand your sentiments Pau but no matter how it is its not you vs Earl Clark, its you vs Dwight. And on that bout, you lose.

    “It would be hard for me to deal with another season knowing the facts you just mentioned,” said Gasol, 32 and with one year remaining on his contract.

    As I have mentioned in previous posts, the bridge between Pau and MDA + front office has been burnt. So while we hear Mitch and Jim say no one is moving by the deadline, its probably just postering. IF it is true, then its clear that Pau will not be a Laker next year.

    But why wait? Just to make the playoffs and get mopped in the 1st round?

  35. Serik, Dwight has ways to go. His post game is not as efficient as that of Pau or Drew’s… his free throws are ridiculous… his super-happy attitude is not what we all expected it to be.

    However, the Lakers are committed to making Dwight our next franchise player. I also believe that the MDA hire and everything else in between will be the moves that will support this move. The front office doesn’t think of this year alone, they think about all the remaining years and years after that.

    Therefore, if that direction is not what you like, then you are not going to like more of the moves that will be done during the deadline and shortly after that.

  36. Warren, I’m not totally against Howard, he is clearly talented but he needs strong personalities next to him so he can become better (FO, coach, players). It seems that he can’t motivate himself, so I’m glad that we have Kobe and acquired Nash. Being on a veteran team may do wonders for Dwight’s psyche and I believe it will.
    As for FO moves, I can only expect Kupchak being at his best in finding good talents (Ariza, Shannon Brown, Hill, Clark) and getting good deals (Gasol, Nash, Howard).

  37. A little off-topic – but surely I’m not the only LA fan that has the downright sh#its at Dwight Howard’s response to any question regarding his future with LA? In the interview with Stephen A Smith he tippy toes around the question of whether he is committed to a long-term future with the Lakers with adages along the lines of “my only focus right now is this season, winning a championship”, in affect insulting the intelligence of all fans – what he is really saying is “I’d really like to win a ring this year with the Lakers, but if it turns sour I’ll explore my options”. If he were truly committed he’d say “I will sign with the Lakers this off-season, I’m committed to the Lakers now and into the future”. Pisses me right off.

    Dwight needs to listen to this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0o4crq6DNc

  38. Andrew, Dwight Howard is entitled to that choice. Even if it means leaving the Lakers “if things turn sour” he can choose his next destination. He shouldn’t be compelled to be anywhere else he does not want to be at. After all, its his decision, its his career, its his life.

    Its like what most feel Lebron scorned the Cavs. But can you really fault him if it were you on his shoes?

    While I don’t like the idea of him leaving LA, he owns that right. And I recognize that.

  39. Serik, I posted the names of the free agents for 2014 on the last thread. I realized after posting/sorting that the names that would become future Lakers (should we proceed to have cap space then) are not as impressive after Lebron James. Thats on the basis of being an instant contender. There are other names on there that would fit our team that has Nash, Clark* and Howard* and its clear that we will be *wing-hunting* when that time comes.

    As far as strong personalities are concerned, I actually think Dwight needs more of Nash as a teammate rather than a Kobe as a teammate. While its unquestioned how Kobe’s determination and will are to his advantage, Dwight is someone who would rather be free than be restricted. Whether thats the right attitude towards a championship or not, I can’t tell you otherwise.

  40. Dwight claims he shot 90% from the line in high school. I really have to see more high school ball – Kobe tanking games, Dwight making foul shots. Maybe Metta used to pass.

  41. What bothers me about Dwight as a franchise player is he seems to be all about Dwight and not much about winning. Forget the Dwightmare, just watch him play.

    He has never improved on a limited low post skill set, yet when he gets the ball in the post he looks to shoot no matter what. He will throw up any lousy off balance shot before he thinks about passing.

    He sulks when he doesn’t get the ball enough.

    And he makes more grandstanding goal tending plays than anyone I have seen. Is there a blocks to goal tends ratio stat, like assists to turnovers? Just observing, Dwight’s would be very high. He goal tends shots that have no chance of going in. And he swats shots into the third row. Which looks great, but gives the other team the ball.

    He is not a smart player. Not a team player. He is a great talent, especially when healthy, and we certainly aren’t seeing Dwight at his best this year. But is he a leader, a winner? If you give the max and he isn’t 100% physically, what does he give you?

    And if he insists on being the focal point offensively but doesn’t develop the skill set to do the job, is he ever going to be able to be the guy who leads you to a title?

  42. @ rr–Thanks for the Simers post. Although it only confirmed what I’ve always thought about Pau–consumate professional. I remember awhile back some folks speculating about whether Pau was “dogging it” during his stint on the bench with tendinitis, and then with his concussion. Anyone who still suspects that should go read that article–and be ashamed–very ashamed.

    I don’t claim to know what the right answer is re: Pau. Of the three options (i.e., bring him off the bench, start him next to Howard, trade him) I still think he can do the most good in an expanded sixth-man role (i.e. 25-35 minutes a night, depending upon opponent/matchups, anchoring the 5 spot for the bench, and providing minutes at the 4 next to Dwight–with the modest decrease in minutes giving him the ability to put more into each minute he’s out there).

    But whatever happens, whether he is gone at the trade deadline, gone after this season, or gone after his contract expires, I am confident that we will all, to one degree or another, miss his game and his professionalism, whether we admit it or not.

    I openly bristle at the Kobe-haters who claim that Kobe’s first three rings were Shaq’s and his last two are Pau’s, because such a simplistic view proves that someone is either a hater/troll, or alternatively proves they just started watching basketball. But, even as an unapologetic Kobe apologist, I can recognize that LA doesn’t win its last two championships without Pau doing all of the things that he does.

  43. @Andrew – JVG makes some excellent points, thanks for the link

    Warren,
    I understand your point about Kobe/Nash and whom DH may benefit more from personality-wise, but I would hope that being an all-star center with (if he continues to improve his game; ie. train with Kareem or even Olajuwon!) the sky to shoot for, that he´ll become great enough (once he´s as close to 100% healthy as he´s gonna get) to play at his best with both personality types. That is, let them make his game top-notch, night in and night out, with no concern as toward whom he gravitates better
    I guess that I take Wilt´s adjusting his style to finally get a ring or Russell constantly making his teammates better or Cap never ebbing from going about his business no matter who he had around him as firm examples of championship-caliber attitudes and seeing that DH has the potential (and seems to be at the threshhold of said potential) to be THE elite center in the league for a number of seasons to come if he would only realize it (and again, when he´s back to full health) inclines me to believe it´s simply up to him to push himself harder and harder –
    & I really believe he´s got it in him!
    Geez, I hope this post makes sense :)

  44. Purpleblood, yes it does. We all want and hope for Dwight to become our leader because he’s about to get paid to be one. I won’t apologize for Dwight and his shortcomings and I believe they can definitely improve.

    Great players are supposed to not choose his destiny. He will be great no matter. Be it Steve or Kobe he plays with he is supposed to be great regardless.

    Pau Gasol should be the same. His play was so bad early on that he can’t really complain why MDA gradually gave his minutes to a more capable Earl Clark at PF. He blames MDA for him not being able to get the ball in spots where he likes, can’t he simply go there instead of complain about not being there?

    Overall, this Laker season has been the most challenging in recent memory. This is the season we transition… this is the season we start building our next dynasty. And with that we can’t all expect to go 82-0 + 16-0. If you ask me, this challenge is good for our growth.

  45. Pau is a great ball player. Just watching him with Dwight out has been a reminder of what he can do. Score from the post. Playmaker. Score from the perimeter. Rebound. Low post D. He’s not much on defending penetration, but he good one on one in the post. He can even drive to the hoop and score.

    Scoring from the perimeter is really the bonus with Pau. He is first and foremost a Center, low post type. His outside game gives him versatility. The problem is that the Lakers are asking to be MAINLY a perimeter guy. That is not Pau. And Dwight and Pau have not worked out a way to get Pau some low post touches when they play together.
    I actually think that, basketball wise, that could be worked out. Whether it can be personality wise is another question.

  46. ..this challenge is good for our growth.
    _____
    totally agree with you on that.

    As for Pau, I agree again that he should be more agressive (as other posters have alluded to) and go to the spot he thrives at – and per TJ Simers´ interview with him, if next season it´s between MD´A or Pau…Viva España!!!

  47. Serik and Tom Daniels,
    Every so often we see these comparisons to Shaq come up, in regard to Dwight. For someone who has followed the Lakers since before Shaq was born, I find the comparisons somewhat illuminating. Shaq was a physical anomaly – similar to Lebron today. However, he had much the same ‘joking’ attitude as Dwight does and I find today’s wish that Dwight treat the game more like Shaq to be laughable. That joking attitude is what separated Kobe and Shaq; that joking attitude led Shaq to less dedication to his craft than his talent would dictate – something Dwight does far better than Shaq.

    Shaq had the talent to easily be mentioned with Wilt, Kareem, and Hakeem Olajuwon, but he is a rung lower because of his lack of dedication to his craft.

    Please don’t use Shaq as an example Dwight should follow.

  48. Recognizing that I’m not a very good blog owner, here is my attempt to predict what happens to the Lakers come 2014, our options and the things we can do when the time comes.

    http://wp.me/pxAr3-1h

  49. As Eric Pincus notes, aside from the possible use of the amnesty (my own suggestion), an imbalanced trade for Pau Gasol next summer can solve the Lakers’ payroll and conflict issues.

    “If the Lakers want to get out of the graduated tax for next season, then dealing Gasol this year makes sense but they can keep the core together – pay this year’s tax and then look over the summer to move Gasol to a team with cap room. In an unbalanced trade in July, even taking back $10 million in salary would save much, much more than the $9.3 million difference in Gasol’s salary ($19.3 million). The Lakers could save $18-27 million on that $9 million reduction – it just doesn’t HAVE to happen this season. ”

    In which case, since we’re not exactly a team with a very high probability of winning it all, why not do it now, have time to incorporate the pieces earlier, make adjustments earlier, and have the chance to correct some mistakes and fill some holes come summer.

  50. Ric Bucher also posts a very interesting comment:

    “When some GMs say they’re not looking to make a deal or trade a particular player, it means “We’re looking for better offers than we’ve received so far.” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is not one of them. It would be a total departure — or intrusion by Jim Buss — for Kupchak to publicly say he’s not moving Dwight Howard or core player and then turn around and do it. And why would he say he’s not moving anybody? Because he has a few sensitive players who have a history of going in a funk when their names appear in trade rumors. Clearly, the Lakers are focussed on making a run for a playoff spot rather than blowing it up and heading in another direction. ”

    I so believe this.

  51. I think Pau should stop pouting and do WHATEVER he can to help the team as long as he is a part of it. If it means coming off the bench, so be it. Ditto if Mike wants him to start alongside Dwight. This business of him having to have low post touches is bogus to me. Dwight has adjusted and sacrificed his game this season. So has Steve. Kobe has had to play multiple roles. They all did so in an effort to blend the team’s talents and most importantly, to win. Pau is a seven footer with immense skills. He can help the team in many ways other than standing on the box with his hand up.

  52. This team is designed to be rebuilt after next year. It is not a roster that with a small tweak will constructed for the next 3 years. The Lakers brought in Dwight to be the centerpiece of that rebuilding effort. After seeing him not getting healthy, poking jabs at team mates in the press, does anyone really think this is the guy the Lakers can build around? We have 2 good centers who each should be played at the center position. One needs to go but if Dwight isn’t going to be the guy the Lakers can reliably build around hes the one who needs to go.

  53. So no Dwight and Metta for tonight’s game, tough but lets see we can pull this one out! Will be a good boost!

  54. Warren, I think the answer to the “why not do it now” question is twofold: (i) because management thinks they can find a better deal this summer than in the next week and a half; and (ii) the fact that they aren’t likely to win a title this year (whether or not they trade Pau) means there is little upside to trading him now for a worse deal, which would expose the team to the risk of having no center next year if Dwight leaves.

    I’ve been on the “trade Pau” bandwagon for a while, but that was largely because I thought a more athletic team might have a chance of turning it around THIS year. If this year is a wash, as it seems to be, holding off until Dwight makes his choice this summer seems like the most prudent thing to do. I still don’t think I’d commit to Dwight after what I’ve seen, but I’m pretty sure that Laker management feels differently than I do.

    I’m also a bit surprised at the muted reaction to Pau’s comments in the Simers article. Frankly, nice guy or not (and truthful comments or not), those were among the most divisive comments I have heard from any NBA player in a long time. He punked Dwight’s low post effectiveness and free throw shooting, essetially criticized Howard for complaining about touches by saying “I always look for Dwight”, and basically said that if Dwight & MDA are here next year then Pau doesn’t want to be here (which pretty much the equivalent of saying that you don’t want to be here right now). He openly calls out his coach’s judgment, and lays bare for all to see that there is a rift between the two of them. That all of this stuff has the benefit of being “true” does not make it less shocking for it to be openly said, on the record, to a reporter.

    I’ve done my fair share of bashing Howard, but Dwight catching flak for not committing to the Lakers for next season seems pretty unreasonable compared to praising Pau after what he just did. Unlike the free agent to be, Pau is under contract for next year for FAR more money than he is worth and he didn’t just “not commit” to the Lakers but actually said “if things don’t change I don’t want to be here”. For that, he is getting kudos for being “nice.”

  55. I think the Lakers would be stupid to trade Pau. Pau is one of the best big men in the NBA, and it’s a travesty that Mike D’Antoni is not using Pau’s talents effectively. It will be an interesting offseason in LA if the Lakers do not make the playoffs.
    http://wp.me/1gCK6

  56. world peace suspended one game.

    will morris or ebanks step up?

  57. If this year is a wash, as it seems to be, holding off until Dwight makes his choice this summer seems like the most prudent thing to do.

    Agreed; this is what I said yesterday. If Howard walks, then put Pau at the 5, play out 2014, and hit reset after the season when Kobe, Pau, Metta, and Blake all come off the books. The Lakers will have their 1st round pick after next year as well.

    If Howard stays, seems able to play, and they keep D’Antoni, then you probably have to look at moving Pau–and Pau himself even said that in the Simers interview. If Howard stays but is in rehab, and/or they fire D’Antoni, different calculus.

    At this point, however, I think Howard and D’Antoni are each about 50/50 propositions. I am just guessing, but I do believe that Kupchak and Buss still expect the team to make the playoffs and at least put up a good fight, winning 2 or 3 games, against Oklahoma City or San Antonio. If the Lakers really do finish 9th or 10th, or if they nose in and get wiped out in 4 in Round 1, I think that even with the money he is owed, MDA will not be safe. Also, there are no indications that Howard likes either MDA or his system, so that will come into play as well.

    No one mentioned it, but Portland won by 2 last night and Utah came back late to avoid losing a home game to Sacramento, eventually winning in OT. With the situation the Lakers are in, these kinds of things matter as they will probably be in or out by 1-2 games either way.

  58. Funky chicken:

    spot on about Pau.

  59. rr, I saw those scores (Portland & Utah) and had the same reaction. Standings-wise, those outcomes were the equivalent of the Lakers losing to Detroit on Sunday.

  60. Humans seem to need both a hero and a goat – sports just amplifies this apparent peculiarity.

    On the Lakers Pau and Dwight seem to be these extremes. Pick one and the other has to be at the other extreme. Are we looking for truth or are we simply making ourselves feel better? The truth is somewhere in-between – not a very exciting place.

    Pau is definitely no saint and his words belie a frustration that he isn’t at least the 2nd main cog on this team – he long ago proved that he wasn’t an alpha dog, regardless the amount of skill he possesses. For people criticizing him, they often demand he become more aggressive and for those anointing him to sainthood, they emphasize what a team player he is. Pau is all those things because he is human, as is Dwight, and even Kobe. That is why the concept of team is a hard thing to put together, especially when there are a number of would-be alpha dogs in the house.

    The reason most of us would make terrible general managers is because it is hard for us to keep more than one positive/negative characteristic in our minds at the same time. The front office, and the coach, must mesh all this together and make it work in time to make the playoffs. It is really funny to hear comments like, “…if only…were done…”. It just ain’t that simple – sorry, but true.

  61. Ken, apparently it seems like me and you are the same person. Oh wait, why am I telling you this? I would be talking to myself…..

    Look, Phil would have been the better choice for this job in terms of getting this team to perform at their highest level. A coaches job is to get everyone to perform at their best and Mike D can’t do that and it has already been proven. Would Phil get this team to a championship? No. Would he get this team into the playoffs easier? Hard to think he wouldn’t.

  62. Great analysis as usual, Darius. Always much appreciated.

  63. Craig W

    I agree with you on comparing Dwight and Shaq.

    But I never even mentioned Shaq. I just talked about Dwight.

    Thanks!

    Tom

  64. Hi Kenjoe, are you seriously still lobbying for Phil? Blast from the past much?