Bringing Pau Gasol Back to Starting Lineup a Risky Move for Lakers’ Chemistry

In a decision that comes with plenty of risk to the L.A. Lakers' improving chemistry, coach Mike D'Antoni has indicated that Pau Gasol could return to the team and rejoin the starting lineup as early as March 18.

Per Mark Medina of The L.A. Daily News, D'Antoni said:

He’s going to be a starter at some point and is going to be a big part of what we do. We’ll work from there. Whether it’s the first day, fifth day or 10th day, I don’t know. It depends on his conditioning and how everything is going. But we will work that in where he starts.

What's so risky about re-inserting a highly skilled four-time All-Star into a starting lineup that has played with a patchwork collection of power forwards since his absence?

Well, for starters, things had been going pretty well for the Lakers since Gasol went down with a torn plantar fascia on Feb. 5. L.A. has gone 12-6 in that stretch and has managed to climb into a playoff spot in the West.

Team success aside, there are sure to be lingering chemistry kinks between Gasol and Dwight Howard.

Per Medina, D'Antoni plans to "use Gasol differently" when he comes back, but it seems as though the coach has already tried just about everything in an effort to get the most out of his frontcourt tandem.

For what it's worth, Gasol actually has made Howard a better player when he's been on the floor this year. But in a twist that appropriately reflects the Spaniard's unselfish nature, his own play has suffered mightily when he's been paired with L.A.'s center.

Note the way Gasol's field-goal percentage and points per game spike when he's not playing with Howard. Those facts—along with the statistic that shows Gasol's assists skyrocket with Howard on the floor—clearly indicate that he is too preoccupied with setting up D12 to play effectively himself.

Going by the numbers alone, it appears to make...

About the Author