Mike D’Antoni Promised Pau Gasol He Won’t Bench Him at Crunch Time Anymore

by December 21, 2012

Instead of sniping at each other through the media, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni and power forward Pau Gasol had dinner to hash things out. According to the LA Times, D’Antoni assured Gasol that he would no longer bench him at crunchtime (something that has infuriated the Spaniard this season.): “Gasol said he wanted the ball in the post instead of on the perimeter and also asked to play in crunch time, among the topics discussed with D’Antoni at a Manhattan Beach restaurant. ‘It was to make sure we’re in the same boat,’ Gasol said. ‘We’re trying to reach the same goal. Let’s communicate. Hopefully, we can meet halfway on some points.’ D’Antoni told Gasol he would no longer be benched in crucial situations, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Gasol has been benched three times in the fourth quarter since D’Antoni was hired, including the last 2 minutes 36 seconds of the Lakers 101-100 victory Tuesday over Charlotte. It was Gasol’s first game after sitting out eight in a row because of tendinitis in his knees. […] D’Antoni was the initiator of the meeting, suggesting they get dinner, something he would do with players individually from time to time. Was he making sure he wasn’t ‘losing’ Gasol? ‘I didn’t think I was,’ D’Antoni said. ‘But I wanted to make sure he knew what my vision was for him and the team and see if that’s all good. Then we’ll tweak it or not tweak it. I thought he was great and gave me a lot of insight into a lot of things. It was more of a feeling-out process and what makes him feel comfortable. He’s a very intelligent basketball player. Why wouldn’t I get his opinion about a lot of things?’ Gasol’s numbers have dipped significantly this season. He is averaging 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds, and shooting only 41.3%. Gasol didn’t talk about increased touches with D’Antoni but, rather, specific places he wanted the ball. He doesn’t feel comfortable with it so far from the basket, the norm for him in D’Antoni’s offense. ‘We didn’t even really talk about [number of] touches because I don’t believe in that,’ D’Antoni said. ‘But I believe in him being involved.'”