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The Pulse of the NBA

11:15 AM, Dec 5, 2012   |    comments
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New York, NY (Sports Network) - I heard a very interesting rumor. New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams apparently believes strongly in pounding the ball down low and initiating the offense from the inside out. So with that philosophy, he's told Ryan Anderson, who's noted for his 3-point shooting, not to shoot 3's anymore, and to stay exclusively in the low post. This is despite the fact that Anderson is neither comfortable nor effective playing there.

The other interesting caveat to this story is that Williams supposedly called Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni to bounce the idea off him and D'Antoni said he's exactly right in having players adapt to his system and to heck with their individual strengths and the way they're used to playing the game.

I hope you've realized by now this is simply a fictitious story made to highlight how ridiculous D'Antoni's thinking is when it comes to Pau Gasol and just his general lack of common basketball sense.

I hear so much talk of how Gasol needs a change of scenery, but all I see is that he needs a good coach, whom he didn't have in Mike Brown or the current Lakers coach.

Anderson's name, by the way, comes up pretty often in speculating about players whom the Lakers might target if they were looking to deal Gasol. I find it absurd that D'Antoni would prefer a stretch four like Anderson, who doesn't rebound or defend very well, and doesn't make teammates better over someone as skilled as the four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion in Gasol.

But it certainly isn't a surprise, since this is D'Antoni's M.O. That's why he's chosen to close some games with Gasol on the bench in favor of Antawn Jamison.

In Sunday's embarrassing home loss to the Orlando Magic, Gasol subbed out of the game with 6:07 left and the Lakers up 84-83. The Magic proceeded to put up 29 points with Gasol on the bench and pulled away to win, 113-103. Gasol finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds in 29 minutes.

After the game, Kobe Bryant was asked about his teammates' struggles and he was pretty blunt in his response.

"Put your big-boy pants on," Bryant said. "Just adjust. Just adjust. You can't whine about it. You can't complain about it. You have to master what it is that we're trying to do here and Pau is talented enough and he's good enough to be able to do that."

Gasol can't do anything right now as he's sidelined with tendinitis in his knees that has him listed as day-to-day and forced him to miss Tuesday's game in Houston that resulted in another Lakers' loss, as they blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead.

I was very surprised that Bryant basically supported D'Antoni in wanting Gasol to adjust to the system rather than play to his strengths.

A report even broke Tuesday that stated that Mitch Kupchak spoke recently with Gasol's representatives and told them they would explore a trade if he couldn't make the adjustment.

But Bryant did a complete 360 yesterday, and in my opinion came to his senses, when he addressed Gasol's situation.

"I love Pau like a brother," Bryant said. "I really do. I want him to dominate like I know he can."

And Kobe made a point of how Gasol should be utilized in the offense.

"I want him to dig in and be determined, not discouraged," Bryant added. "We should go to him more on the post because he can dominate from there as he has to the tune of two rings. I'm sure we will adjust and figure out a balance when he comes back healthy."

My question is why this isn't obvious to D'Antoni.

He even witnessed firsthand in the Olympics as an assistant coach with the USA basketball team, Gasol manhandling the United States' front line in the gold medal game, which included the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler, as he led Spain to a near major upset.

I asked Kevin Durant, a member of Team USA, following the Thunder's win in Brooklyn last night what came to mind when I mention the gold medal game and Pau Gasol, and his response was, "he's a beast."

I commented that his coach doesn't seem to think so, referring to D'Antoni, and Durant said he wasn't aware of the situation. I said he doesn't want him to play in the low post, and he said, "You know that coach likes to spread the offense."

D'Antoni doesn't seem to get the concept that having a low-post threat like Gasol impacts the game more than a perimeter player like Jamison or Anderson.

If you have guy who can score down low, it creates double teams and open shots for teammates, and with the defense scrambling on the double-teams, it opens up the offensive boards, because it's difficult to find a man to put a body on.

It's no coincidence that almost all of the great power forwards to play the game, such as Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett and Kevin McHale were guys that played great with their back to the basket.

And of course, with Gasol, you also get one of the best passing big men in the game and a shot-blocking presence. You don't get that with the likes of Jamison and Anderson.

I highly doubt that coaches like Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers, or team executives such as Pat Riley or R.C. Buford would prefer to have Jamison or Anderson on their roster over Gasol.

Will Mike D'Antoni ever get it? I certainly wouldn't bet the house on it.

Offense is the foremost thought to him and everything else is an afterthought. It seems if a player can score the ball, D'Antoni will ignore any other deficiencies. On the flip side, a guy who can rebound and defend, but isn't that good offensively, will get mostly overlooked.

That's been the case for Lakers' reserve big man Jordan Hill, who has seen his playing time diminish significantly since D'Antoni take over.

Hill, who was acquired late last season from Houston Rockets in the Derek Fisher deal, had some very good playoff moments, and general manager Mitch Kupchak thought enough of his play to re-sign the restricted free agent to a two-year contract for nearly $8 million.

The Sports Network

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