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Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Mike D'Antoni rebukes Pau Gasol

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni says he was disappointed that Pau Gasol took him to task through the media and also vowed Wednesday to continue to employ a small-ball lineup down the stretch this season.

"The thing I just don't appreciate ... You just keep it in-house," D'Antoni said before the Lakers' 108-103 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. "It's very easy just to come over and talk about your frustrations. We'll try to work something out. We'll figure something out.

Mike D'Antoni and center Pau Gasol
Coach Mike D'Antoni says he was disappointed that Pau Gasol took him to task through the media regarding the Lakers' performance.

"But to go to (the media) and to do it in the papers, that's disturbing. I just don't think that's the way to go and people should understand that we're all trying to solve the same problem, so let's just put our heads together and do the best we can."

D'Antoni addressed Gasol and the rest of the Lakers' players at the team hotel Wednesday in lieu of a shootaround, with L.A. set to play the second half of a back-to-back following Tuesday's 118-98 loss at Indiana.

It was less of an air-it-out team meeting than a chance to move on from the loss to the Pacers -- a particularly bad loss in a stretch that has seen L.A. drop 26 of its last 32 games -- and prepare for the Grizzlies, according to a team source.

"Nobody wants to see that," said the source when asked about Gasol and D'Antoni exchanging public barbs once again, something that's happened on several occasions since D'Antoni was hired to replace Mike Brown last November. "We're just hoping to finish the season off the right way."

The Lakers have a 19-39 record, placing them last in the Western Conference and all but already eliminated from the playoffs -- 14½ games out of the eighth and final spot with 24 games left to play.

If they maintain their .328 winning percentage, it will be their worst season mark since the franchise moved to L.A. from Minneapolis, edging out the team's 1974-75 season when it went 30-52 (.366).

Gasol downplayed his remarks after putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Grizzlies.

"Yes, there was some frustration, but I don't think it was nothing out of line or nothing that went too far," Gasol said. "I stated something obvious, to me. I don't think I said anything too crazy.

"To me, it wasn't that big of a deal. It was just the emotions and the frustrations of a tough loss and a bad game on our part, I think, for the most part."

D'Antoni said that he understood why Gasol was feeling frustrated but took exception to Gasol's claim that there was a lack of discipline governing the Lakers.

"I have no idea what he's talking about," D'Antoni said. "(Tuesday) night, like (Gasol) said, we should have had more ball movement, but I don't know what that has to do with discipline. It has to do with guys trying too hard, guys not really understanding the system totally and not really getting ingrained into it and so I think in that aspect, I can understand what he's talking about, but I don't know why he used that word."

D'Antoni defended the Lakers' two new players MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore, acquired in a trade with Golden State for Steve Blake before last week's trade deadline, and said the pair just needed time to get acclimated to their new surroundings.

"They've had half a practice with us, so obviously we've got to teach them and get them to buy into the system and understand what we want, but they are playing very hard and they are giving everything they've got, especially on defense," said D'Antoni, shrugging off Bazemore and Brooks combining for 29 shots against the Pacers while the other nine Lakers players to get in the game combined to take 61 attempts.

Bazemore and Brooks lowered their shot totals against Memphis, combining to take 15 attempts and scoring 14 points apiece.

Gasol said he didn't mean to single either of them out.

"It wasn't an attack to anyone in particular," Gasol said. "I wasn't blaming MarShon and Kent of anything. I like these guys a lot. They're great guys, they came in, I'm happy that they're getting this opportunity. But that's why from a team standpoint, you have to help them make better decisions.

"I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. I was just making my comments and my feelings after the game and a frustrating loss. I think it's pretty human."

Bazemore and Brooks are two of the 12 players on the Lakers' roster whose contracts expire at the end of the season, something D'Antoni acknowledged was a factor in the selfish play.

"Everybody is looking for a contract on the team and when the ball isn't shared, your numbers go down, you're frustrated and then you lash out," D'Antoni said. "The place to do it is in the dressing room among us. We got good guys in there that will listen and try to get better. That's all you try to do and why we open it up (to the media)? That I don't understand."

D'Antoni, known for his spread-the-floor offensive system, said that too much attention was being paid by his players to how his team was scoring rather than how they were struggling on defense.

"The frustration always comes out on the offensive end, where we're OK. It never comes out on the defensive end where we don't stop anybody," D'Antoni said. "That's where I get frustrated, because if you're going to get upset about something, let's get upset about the points in the paint, the second-chance points, not getting back on defense. Then, OK, then we're making progress."

D'Antoni also stood by his decision to keep Wesley Johnson in the starting frontcourt and take a small-ball approach, despite the plus-size lineups that Indiana and Memphis trot out onto the court.

"We want a certain type of basketball and we're trying establish that and we're trying to put everything into it," D'Antoni said. "Clearly, the numbers say that when you spread the floor and move the ball and get up and down the floor, then we have a lot better chance to win. That's what we want to do."

He said he has already seen enough to know that playing Gasol alongside a more traditional big man in Chris Kaman (who missed the Memphis game with a sore back), Robert Sacre or Jordan Hill won't help L.A. in the long run.

"It's frustrating for some players," D'Antoni said. "I understand. Obviously, if you lose playing one way (players think), 'Well, we'll just play the other way.' So, you could get killed the other way. You can't (do that). We go on by numbers, by feel. We want to establish an identity and we don't want to be all over the board every night changing something up and matching up to other teams and just grasping at straws. You don't want to do that."

To add to the Lakers' hard times this road trip, the team had to switch airplanes in Indianapolis late Tuesday night after a deicing vehicle at the airport drove into the wing of the first plane they boarded and delayed them for more than two hours.

"Frustration comes out," D'Antoni said. "I think it's normal. I think going forward we'll have more of it, but I just hope that -- and I think they will -- they'll (say), 'OK, we messed that game up. Let's get to this one and try to do the best we can.' "