Gasol sat out in Houston as he continues his seemingly lost battle with tendinitis in both of his knees. But this wasn’t supposed to be a problem for Los Angeles. After all, Gasol and his career-worst 12.6 points on 42 percent shooting from the floor was holding them back.
Except that it wasn’t. Not in the way many people envisioned it to be.
Yes, Gasol is struggling and it is holding the Lakers back, but his removal is not the answer. Nor is trading him.
Why? Because the Lakers still need him; they need the versatility dominant Gasol. They wouldn’t be struggling while he was also struggling—or on the sidelines—if they didn’t.
And the loss to the Rockets proves that. It proved that Kobe Bryant could still drop 39 points in a worthless effort. It proved that Antawn Jamison could play 37 minutes as a Mike D’Antoni-preferred stretch forward and the Lakers could still lose.
Most importantly, though, it proved that there are plenty of other problems floating around Hollywood that cannot be attributed to Gasol.
Is it his fault that Dwight Howard’s nine field-goal attempts marked the 10th time this season he has jacked up 12 or less shots in a game? Is it his fault that the Lakers are 2-9 when Kobe drops more than 25 points? Is it his fault that Los Angeles allowed Houston’s bench to drop 59 points?
Absolutely not. For one, he wasn’t playing, but mostly, it’s because the Lakers have plenty of other quandaries outside the passive and arguably lost Gasol.
This team needs additional shooters to take the burden off Bryant’s shoulders. They need Howard to be more assertive on the offensive end so that he becomes the two way threat they know him to be. They need to allow less than the 21 offensive rebounds they allowed in the loss to the Rockets.
And yeah, they need a healthy and productive Gasol too. But the operative word there is “too,” because he is not the one and only issue plaguing the sub .500 Lakers. Heck, he’s not even the primary issue.
The Lakers lost against the Rockets because they weren’t aggressive enough on the glass. They lost because they committed 18 turnovers. They lost because Howard missed 8-of-his-16 free throws. They lost because they lack offensive direction in Steve Nash’s absence.
Not strictly because of Gasol or his absence. And that has held just as true in the Lakers’ other nine losses thus far this season.
Which means Gasol isn’t the problem. If anything, his increased production would be part of the solution. What we’re witnessing from Los Angeles is the direct result of a lack of chemistry and familiarity with one another. It’s what happens when a team is still mastering a new system and isn’t confident in their ability to run perfect offensive sets.
It’s what happens when a prolific convocation is as new to each other as the Lakers still are.
That’s not solely on Gasol. Their loss to the Rockets had nothing to do with Gasol.
None of this is exclusively because of Gasol.
The Lakers are a team, and as such, they win and lose as a team—together.
And those currently calling for Gasol’s permanent removal from Los Angeles would do well to remember that.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.