After noticeably struggling with his mobility in new Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced offense, starting power forward Pau Gasol will not play in the Lakers’ game Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets due to knee tendinitis. Gasol had been averaging just 10.1 points per game and 8.0 rebounds in seven games with D’Antoni at the helm.
Gasol choosing to rest his knees now may be the best decision for the 7” 32-year old. Gasol’s lack of mobility was a clear issue in recent Lakers losses to the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic. Gasol was beat and couldn’t recover on a game-winning layup by Pacers guard George Hill last week, and Sunday Gasol was blocked by Glen Davis on a dunk attempt that Gasol would normally have converted easily.
Resting Gasol allows the Lakers to start Antawn Jamison, who coincidentally has been thriving in D’Antoni’s system. After starting the season in a slump Jamison has bounced back to 11.9 points and 6.1 rebounds in 22 minutes a game while shooting .550 from the field under D’Antoni.
Jamison’s ability to space the floor from the big forward position is a needed asset for the Lakers and gives Dwight Howard more room to operate in the post. Jamison can as well play the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop game with Kobe Bryant, giving the Lakers multiple scoring options in their half court sets.
Not only is Jamison more versatile than Gasol offensively, Jamison is also better and more agile on the defensive end at the moment. With Jamison due to pick up more playing time D‘Antoni may be forced to finally play Jordan Hill, who’s minutes have been few and far between lately. Hill may not have much of an outside shooting touch, but his energy and athleticism would offer an improvement defensively, the Lakers biggest area of concern so far this season.
Resting during the Lakers short three-game road trip may be just the remedy Gasol needs to jump-start his season. But if the Lakers thrive without Gasol, Lakers fans pleading to trade him could potentially grow louder than ever. Gasol could have a catch-22 on his hands; damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.