Los Angeles Lakers: Mike D’Antoni Making Mistake Not Benching Pau Gasol

Let me be perfectly clear about the purpose of this article: I have a tremendous affinity for Pau Gasol's basketball game. He is still one of the most skilled players in the game, bar none. In most circumstances, his return would not even require a second thought to the starting lineup.

But this is not most circumstances.

This 2013 Lakers team has proven to be something akin to a frustrated fisherman who appears to reel in his prize, only to see it slip away time and time again. Every time this team seems to progress toward what they are seemingly capable of, there is another calamity that pushes them further away.

Well, the last couple of games, while not against elite competition by any means, has still demonstrated how good the Lakers can be. And it has happened in no small part due to the insertion of Earl Clark into the starting lineup gives the Lakers something they were definitely lacking earlier in the season: a sense of balance.

Clark is not Pau Gasol. But what he is might be more important to this team going forward. Clark is athletic—something the Lakers lack outside of Dwight Howard. He plays off of Howard better and most of all, he brings a tangible energy and effort that Los Angeles has only seen consistently from the Clippers this NBA season.

In other words, he is a better fit.

That's been the 'secret' of the NBA for as long as it has existed and something notorious Laker hater Bill Simmons famously interviewed Isiah Thomas about. You don't win with the five best players. You win with the five players that fit best together. 

In short, Gasol and Howard simply do not mesh. And truthfully, Laker fans and management should've seen this at the end of the 2012 season. A slowed Gasol was basically cast off the block by Andrew Bynum and began to see his production decline. It has only been more pronounced with Howard's acquisition.

Gasol is still a ...

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