- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- After Pau Gasol endured his fourth benching in the fourth quarter since Mike D'Antoni was hired as coach, there is no denying that the Los Angeles Lakers forward is having a hard time fitting in with the team he once helped win two championships.
The Lakers ultimately could decide they just can't make it work with the former four-time All-Star; however, it won't be Gasol pushing his way out of town.
"No, oh, that's radical," Gasol said when asked whether he would request a trade following the Lakers' 107-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. "I still believe. I still have faith in what we have. I still have faith that I can be a big part in helping this team succeed. Right now, I'm not being able to do that very often."
Gasol finished with just two points on 1-for-6 shooting along with four rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes against the Clippers. He sat the entire fourth quarter until Dwight Howard fouled out with 1:07 remaining and Gasol finished off the game in his stead.
D'Antoni said the benching had "nothing" to do with the plantar fasciitis and knee tendinitis that have plagued the 32-year-old Gasol this season.
"He just didn't have a good game," D'Antoni said.
Gasol expressed his frustration with the role he has been handed in the offense.
"It's difficult sometimes because it's not up to me to get involved," Gasol said. "I'm trying, but the times that I am at the elbows are the times that I get more involved and can make more plays from there, but it's not consistent."
Following the last time Gasol was benched in the fourth, a narrow Lakers win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Gasol met with D'Antoni for dinner to discuss how best to integrate him with the team. More than two weeks later, Gasol was not so sure things had changed since then.
"I don't like watching from the bench," Gasol said.
He did differentiate Friday's benching from the others against Memphis, Orlando and Charlotte, noting that the Lakers cut a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit down to two without him in the game.
"The guys on the floor were doing a great job cutting down the lead, and we gave ourselves a chance, so it wasn't that frustrated from that point but it was still hard," Gasol said.
The 7-footer said his effectiveness has become too reliant upon whether his jump shot is falling (he went 0-for-2 from 3 on Friday) and said he would have to become more assertive.
"I have to have more initiative because I can't wait for other people to make decisions for me, so I have to make them myself," Gasol said. "That's a little uncharacteristic of me, but right now I feel like I have no other choice if I want to be more effective."
Kobe Bryant came to Gasol's defense once again, as he has several times this season since initially suggesting Gasol needed to put on his "big-boy pants," stressing the importance of using the 12-year veteran in what the team is trying to accomplish.
"We have to figure that out," Bryant said. "We need to go through him a lot, lot more. A lot, lot more. He needs more touches on the elbow, more touches on the post. He's not a scorer type of a person, he'll be the first to admit that, but he can make plays for others down there. He can control the game from down there, and we got to find a way to get him more activated."
Bryant said part of the problem stems from finding a way to accommodate both Gasol and Howard when they're on the floor simultaneously.
"We got to figure out that spacing," Bryant said. "But he needs to have the ball. For sure."
Bryant said he planned to speak with D'Antoni at Saturday's practice about Gasol's role.
"Pau is just going to continue to be patient," Bryant said. "He's obviously frustrated and has every right to be. I'm frustrated for him. But, I mean, that's something that we have to solve because we're not going to get where we have to go with him not playing at maximum potential and using his maximum potential."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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