After what was a pretty miserable debut game for Lakers starting center Marc Gasol on Tuesday against the Clippers on NBA Opening Night, Gasol vowed that things would get better. It was a low bar—Gasol did not take a shot in 12 minutes in his first game in purple-and-gold, notching one rebound, one assist and five fouls.
Here’s how Gasol described it on a video conference with reporters:
Never got in a rhythm offensively. Obviously never really had a chance to be in a lot of actions and help my teammates and the team. And defensively, just got put in a couple bad positions from the get-go. Little ticky-tacky fouls. The referees were being very hard … on the first half of the game, I think, and I got the worst end of the stick, or the short end of the stick a couple times.
When you’re in foul trouble, you’re always then more cautious. But I got in more foul trouble again and every chance I got to get in the game. But it can only get better from now. So, that’s definitely a positive.
Well, sort of.
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Going by the measuring stick of his first game, Gasol was better in Game 2 against Dallas. He did have nine rebounds. Where his plus/minus in the opener was minus-8, he registered a plus-8 the next time out.
But as for that offensive rhythm: Gasol scored just two points, at the free-throw line, missing the only field-goal he has attempted in his Lakers career—a 26-foot 3-point attempt from the top of the 3-point arc. He committed two more fouls, running his total to seven.
Lakers Need Short-Minute Contributions From Gasol
The Lakers, realistically, do not need a lot from Gasol. They would like him to be a presence inside defensively, as was the guy he replaced, center JaVale McGee, during last year’s NBA championship run. McGee was the starter but averaged 16.6 minutes last season. That was enough to get the Lakers going and establish themselves defensive—McGee averaged 1.4 blocks in those limited minutes.
Gasol is a former Defensive Player of the Year, but that was eight years ago. He turns 36 next month and he is not nearly as mobile as he used to be. Still, he has yet to block a shot in his two games in L.A.
Gasol should be a better offensive weapon than McGee. He is one of the deftest big-men passers in league history, and averaged better than 4.0 assists per game four times in his career.
McGee is a woeful passer, and averaged 0.5 assists per game. Of course, at this point, that is what Gasol is averaging now.
Lakers Coach Frank Vogel Wants to Use Gasol as a Passer
Lakers coach Frank Vogel lamented the fact that the Lakers did not use Gasol more as a passer, especially given the fact that they can use his floor sense to help get open looks for star forward Anthony Davis.
“We have some action where we throw the ball to him at the top of the key and activate all the cutters around him and we just didn’t do that very much,” Vogel told reporters. “It’s definitely something that we can throw the ball to him up top. I also think that we can post him against his natural matchup, or when they try to put the other team’s center on Anthony and put a smaller guy on Marc. Marc’s been a post player his whole life, so there’s a lot of ways we can use his skill set and that’s not to mention all the ways we can space him around the perimeter and give our basket attackers more room.”
Davis is 6-foot-10 and capable of playing center. When teams employ smaller lineups, theoretically, the Lakers should be able to pound them with size, thanks to the presence of the 6-foot-11 Gasol.
That, though, will require Gasol to play better going forward.
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