Trade winds blowing for Lakers’ Pau Gasol

Nov 26 2012 - 3:40pm

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The Los Angeles Lakers' November malaise reached a low point Friday night when coach Mike D'Antoni benched Pau Gasol for the entire fourth quarter in a loss at Memphis, and when asked afterward why he'd do such a thing -- choosing Antawn Jamison at the power forward instead -- he replied: "Well, I'd like to win the game. That's the reason."Before that game, D'Antoni and Kobe Bryant hinted at Gasol's sluggish play, suggesting he was out of shape and unable to keep pace on an up-tempo possession. Gasol countered that he's a low-post player at heart, not a jump shooter, and after the Memphis debacle, he said: "I can stretch the defense out with a couple of jumpers, but how I get going is by getting in the paint. Historically, that's how I've been successful and made a really good name for myself."

The NBA has unveiled successful "Twin Towers" acts before, from Hakeem Olajuwon-Ralph Sampson to Tim Duncan-David Robinson (on the 1963-64 Warriors team that reached the Finals, Nate Thurmond occasionally played alongside Wilt Chamberlain), but it's not going to work on this L.A. roster. The low post belongs to Dwight Howard, who must be kept happy and inspired, lest he become disillusioned and depart as a free agent next summer. Bryant is going to need his shots. And the whole picture changes when Steve Nash comes back from the injury (fractured bone) to his left leg.

Nash's absence has become more than a passing concern. He was supposed to have returned by now, but he can't even jog down the floor and will probably be out at least another week. No assessment of the Lakers' offense will have a trace of validity until Nash puts in at least a month of game action.

For Gasol, though, the trade winds are blowing. He knows the feeling. And the Lakers, until further notice, are a team feared by no one.

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Lin's resurgence

Jeremy Lin was something of a wayward soul over the season's opening weeks. He lost his shooting touch, to the point of air-balling a three-pointer at crunch time against Miami. He was on even terms, at best, with fellow guards Shaun Livingston and Toney Douglas in practice -- and was benched in favor of Douglas for the closing minutes of a recent game against Chicago. Driving hard to the basket against the Lakers last week, Lin took a senseless, flagrant and intentional elbow to the head from Metta World Peace (cue uproarious and derisive laughter at that name).

Then came Friday night's game against his old team, the Knicks. Although the sentiment was unspoken, his Houston teammates wanted badly to win this game for Lin, who was allowed to leave New York and sign a three-year deal with the Rockets.

The Rockets scored a 131-103 win, prompting Marc Berman, the New York Post beat man, to write, "At the sight of Lin, the Knicks acted as if they saw a ghost." The rout was mostly about James Harden (33 points) and Chandler Parsons (31), but Lin contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. X...X...X

Around the NBA

As a pair, the Lopez twins are having the most fun since their Stanford days. Brook is averaging 19 points and six rebounds for Brooklyn, and he claims to be toughening up on the boards (long a weakness for him) after going against rugged Reggie Evans in practice every day. Robin, so ineffective for the Suns last year that he was booed upon his return to Phoenix this week, is enjoying career-high averages in points (11) and rebounds (6) as New Orleans' starting center. ... Jalen Rose really needs to stop singing on ESPN's "NBA Countdown," but in between his horrendously off-key interludes, he's delightfully candid -- like saying the Lakers "sold Philly a lemon" in Andrew Bynum. Aside from being an incurable mope -- something he proved beyond a doubt in L.A. -- Bynum has knee injuries that have worsened without undergoing any basketball-related stress (his latest setback occurred at a bowling alley). Rose predicts, wisely, that Bynum won't play a game for the 76ers all year -- at which point he can depart as a free agent. ... After striking everyone as the best, deepest and most composed team in L.A., the Clippers fell back a bit. Blake Griffin completely disappeared in the fourth quarter of three important road games -- at San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Brooklyn -- and somehow, Chris Paul picked up six fouls in a 4 1/2-minute stretch of the fourth quarter against the Nets. "Never happened to me before," he said. "Not even in video games."

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