Mike D’Antoni Blames Dwight Howard ‘Politics’ for Issues With Pau Gasol

Things did not go well between Pau Gasol and head coach Mike D’Antoni during their first year together. They were downright awful, in fact. D’Antoni has begun to rebuild his relationship with the big fella, and says things went sour because the Lakers tried so hard (and failed) to make Dwight Howard happy last season. Per USA Today: “‘It was very uncomfortable,’ D’Antoni, the Lakers coach, said about the Howard-Gasol dynamic last season. ‘I knew I was messing on (Gasol) last year. That’s not fair to him. But that was the situation we were in. How do we make the best of it? I was just trying to make the best of it. But no, it wasn’t fair to him. I think it was all (politics). It was all that. We wouldn’t do that (normally). If nobody had names on their jerseys, and we were just playing? You go through Pau. There’s not a question. No question.’ It’s certainly not a question anymore. With the Lakers opening Tuesday night (10:30 ET, TNT) against the Los Angeles Clippers and hoping to shock the masses by sneaking into the playoffs six months from now, Gasol finally has his long-overdue chance to regain his rightful place in the league’s lexicon. He is a four-time All-Star and champion who was too soon forgotten, the 33-year-old free agent-to-be who had his ailing knees fixed during the summer and now wants to round out his remarkably accomplished career with a few more seasons of, as D’Antoni puts it, ‘devastating’ play. The Lakers won’t have (Kobe) Bryant for the foreseeable future as he continues to recover from his April Achilles tendon tear and are already dealing with another round of health setbacks from point guard Steve Nash. In the here and now, they likely will go as far as Gasol can carry them. And that, as he well knows, means he must play like the Gasol of old rather than the old Gasol. ‘I definitely believe I can do it,’ Gasol said. ‘I know it. I bounced back really well. The procedure went well, my tendons are a lot healthier now than they were before. I have a lot more healthy tissue that regenerated well. I worked hard during the summer to be in the position that I’m in today, and I look forward to just to going out there and doing what I know best.'”