After returning from a five-game injury absence, Lakers big man Pau Gasol came off the bench for the first time in 346 games with Los Angeles during Thursday’s game against the Miami Heat — a move that coach Mike D’Antoni is considered making permanent, according to ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin.
Gasol played just 25 minutes during the game and is averaging 33:53 per contest, his lowest since the 2004-05 season.
But while D’Antoni suggested that starting the 7-footer may not be best for the team — prefacing the statement by saying that he “deserves” to start — Gasol was adamant that he does not view himself as a bench player.
“My job is to put the best team on the floor,” D’Antoni said after admitting that he had not yet decided if Gasol or Clark would start against the Raptors. “If I feel like (starting Gasol is) the best way to go, then we’ll go that way. If I don’t, it’s nothing personal. It’s just that I got to do what I think is right. I think every player has to accept what is right, whether they like it or not. So, that’s the bottom line.
“I’ve never come off the bench in my career,” Gasol said. “(Thursday) was my first game off the bench with the Lakers, maybe a couple other games due to injuries, but that’s it. I’ve been a starter my entire career. I’ve been a star starter my entire career, so I want to continue to be a star starter.”
In 12 NBA seasons, the Spaniard has started 815 of 822 games. This season, he has posted a career-low 12.2 points per game on a career-low 42-percent shooting — compared to his career numbers of 18.5 and 51.8.