Pau Gasol: Lakers need balance
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Pau Gasol explained he was thinking about the Los Angeles Lakers' chances in the long term when he called Kobe Bryant's 47 points in 48 minutes performance against the Portland Trail Blazers "bittersweet."
"I'm Kobe's biggest advocate and I love him to death and it's extremely impressive what he can do as a basketball player, but again, I still like to see a little more ball movement, a little better flow, because I think down the road that's what's going to help us beat the better teams," Gasol said after the Lakers' shootaround Friday in advance of their game against the Golden State Warriors. "So I'm looking at the big picture."
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, however, seems content in maximizing Bryant for now with L.A. teetering on the edge of a playoff berth, leading Utah by one game for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference with three games to play.
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"Right now, our horizons are short term," D'Antoni said. "I'm not looking long term. I don't think anybody on this court is long term."
Dwight Howard, who has yet to commit to the Lakers in the long term, also stressed that L.A. can't count on Bryant too much.
"We all have to step up and do what we need to do as a team to win," Howard said. "We all are unique. We all have different skill sets. We have to go out there and put them to use. It's a team sport, and we got to do it as a team. We shouldn't rely on one person. We just got to go out there and do our jobs together."
Howard and D'Antoni were both on message about the defense being more important than the offense.
"Our focus should be defensively," said D'Antoni. "Offensively, we're doing OK. Whether you like the way we're going [on offense] or not, we're OK. Defensively is where we can get a lot better. We can get a lot more activity, a lot more energy and be better there. That's where we're going to win or lose or kind of seal our doom or do what we need to do."
Steve Blake will get the defensive assignment on the Warriors' Stephen Curry to start, as the Lakers will have to try to win once again without Steve Nash on Friday. He will miss his sixth straight game with a lingering right hip and hamstring issue that originally occurred the last time the Lakers played the Warriors on March 25.
"I am [optimistic]," D'Antoni said when asked if he thought Nash would return this season. "Now, whether that's blind optimism, I don't know. But yeah, I think he's close."
Apart from Nash getting hurt the last time the Lakers played Golden State, Howard also received a shot to the face from David Lee that required stitches and was later deemed a flagrant foul by the league. Howard said "I will take care of it later," when asked about Lee's hit after the Warriors' 109-103 win that night but backed off any plans for retaliation when asked about it Friday.
"Listen, I'm not going to do anything stupid to mess our team up," Howard said. "So don't go out there looking and expecting me to go MMA on David Lee. There's no need for that. My teammates need me on the floor, and they need me for the playoffs. So I'm not going to do anything stupid to mess myself up or mess David Lee up. The right way to go about it is to just play ball."
The Lakers' loss to the Warriors also prompted Golden State coach Mark Jackson to declare, "We are the better basketball team. They are in the rearview mirror, and I have not checked it and I will not."
D'Antoni said he didn't pay any attention to Jackson's comments.
"I hope he thinks that," D'Antoni said. "He should think that. I think the other way. That's fine. We'll look tonight and then we'll see."
D'Antoni said the Lakers don't need any extra bulletin board material.
"I don't believe totally in that, because if that's what it takes us to get up then we're in the wrong profession," D'Antoni said. "I mean, come on. This is a playoff game. If that's not enough, the pride of getting in the playoffs and turning our season around and having a chance to go on and win something -- that should be your motivating force. Now, [Jackson's quote] can be in the locker room. You laugh about it, talk about it, get yourself [amped], but I would think winning is the most important thing.
"If we're on revenge kicks, we got a lot of revenge to do this year. So I would hope just the importance of the game [rises above] anything else. We know what we have to do. It's in our hands. Then let's go out and do it. We got to win [Friday] then get the next one. Obviously this is a big one."