Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni removed forward Pau Gasol from the starting lineup on a permanent basis, the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding reported on Monday. D’Antoni announced the move before the Lakers took on the Chicago Bulls Monday night in Chicago.
Earl Clark, a fourth-year forward out of Louisville, took Gasol’s spot in the starting lineup for the Lakers, who continue to struggle at 17-23.
D’Antoni said he made the switch because of a desire to make the starting lineup smaller and quicker. Gasol, meanwhile, will move to a more natural position of center — albeit backing up starter Dwight Howard.
“It also puts Pau in his natural position. He’s one of the best centers in the league,” D’Antoni said.
He added: “We’re better when we’re small.”D
D’Antoni said he talked to Gasol and that he “understands,” but he was resistant to the idea of being removed from the starting lineup, even after returning from a concussion. On Thursday, he came off the bench for the first time in his Lakers career.
“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.”
D’Antoni’s move comes, incidentally, after what was perhaps Gasol’s most productive game this season on Sunday, when he started. He scored 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field in a loss against the Toronto Raptors.