How LA Lakers Are Rebuilding Their Front Line Around Pau Gasol for 2013-14

Pau Gasol is it up front for the Los Angeles Lakers.

With Dwight Howard now a member of the Houston Rockets, he's left to bemoan the absence of facial hair like James Harden's while Gasol must restore order to what became an ebbing frontcourt last season.

When both Howard and Gasol decked themselves in purple and gold, there was no concrete blueprint laid out. You wanted to believe the Lakers were retooling the front line—the entire team really—around Howard, but you couldn't.

A passive power struggle took place between the dyad and Mike D'Antoni. Howard didn't like the system, Gasol didn't appreciate his fluctuating role—starter to sixth man back to starter—and Magic Mike had no idea how to manage a roster with two leading towers.

Then the offseason happened.

Howard left, apathetic social-media wars ensued and Los Angeles' frontcourt was suddenly all Gasol.

"Frontcourt" is not to be confused with "team." These Lakers are still Kobe Bryant's. Long after he retires, he'll probably still declare Los Angeles his for the leading. Perhaps then the team will inform him the torch has been passed.

Right now, even during rehabilitation, no such searing poles are being exchanged—except up front, where Howard willingly absolved himself of all responsibilities more than one month ago.

Howard checked out on the Lakers, maybe long before he ever really left. Now they'll turn their attention back toward Gasol, for the first time since before Andrew Bynum was deemed expendable.

Gasol is entering the final year of his contract and may be playing his final season as a member of the Lakers, but until the summer of 2014, their frontcourt is his. Every move they've made post-Howard has left no doubt about it.


Pau Gasol

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