There is a point in an argument where the emotions and frustrations get so high that a word or phrase is said from one party to other that crosses the line and once those piercing viscous daggers come out in the open, there is no coming back from that. At that point, the relationship, whatever type of relationship it might have been is irreconcilable. After the exchange that Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni and Pau Gasol had through the media over the last couple of days, their relationship might have reached that point of no return.
L.A Times writer Bill Plaschke spoke with Pau Gasol on Wednesay about his struggles this season and Pau provided a candid response:
“The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” Pau said. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity.”
Pau comments to Plaschke show his exasperation with continuing to play in D’Antoni’s system.
“This year hasn’t been ideal, certain things are not ideal for me, but that’s not going to change any time soon,” Pau elaborated on why it has not been ideal this season. “I’m not going to say anything, but it’s easy to see. You see a guy with a certain skill set, where does it fit better, where it doesn’t.”
Plaschke mentions to Pau his coach’s questioning his toughness this season.
“I don’t pay attention. Mike is sometimes all over the place, I don’t give much credit to things like that,” Pau said.
Pau comments obviously show that he is frustrated with his role on the team and attributes that to his struggles thus far this season. When reporters spoke with D’Antoni today about Pau’s comments, he had some choice words that were not comforting in the least.
“He’ll get through it. The message is the same to everybody: Just play hard and we’ll figure it out,” D’Antoni said. “If you don’t play hard, it’s hard to figure out because you don’t know what works and what doesn’t.”
The harshest words from D’Antoni came when reporters asked about Pau’s notion that him not getting the ball in the post is attributing to his lack of aggression and intensity in games.
“Absolutely. It’s also a nice excuse to not play hard. That’s a classic, ‘Well I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ D’Antoni added. “Well, you don’t have trouble getting up to the pay stub line. They know what to do there to get the check. So, obviously you know what to do. They will.”
Questioning a player’s effort and dismissing their reasoning for their struggles as making excuses publicly through the media is that point in the verbal exchange that damages the relationship beyond repair.
D’Antoni stating that Pau has no problems with aggression or intensity when cashing his paycheck (I am paraphrasing), well, those are fighting words. Had this exchange taken place in front of a crowd, D’Antoni’s response would have been followed by “ooohs” and the sounds of gasping for air.
This is now a situation where one of the two must go for the sake of the team and the most likely candidate is Pau. That won’t be easy since Pau is owed roughly 19 million in his last season of his contract and in most cases teams will have to match most of that salary with the contracts that would be coming back in trade.
Pau’s large expiring contract will garner interest from teams looking to unload bad long term contracts but unless it is a big name the Lakers would not be interested in reducing their flexibility to sign free agents after this season.
The Lakers will try to focus their attention on the Oklahoma City Thunder who they play today to open up a 4 game road trip. The Gasol v. D’Antoni feud will likely be the hot topic both prior to and following the game.
It will be interesting to see how this drama unfolds, but it’s clear where the battle lines have been drawn. In this battle, it will be the Lakers brass that will have to decide. Is it D’Antoni or Gasol?
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