Even good games like the one he had Friday can’t undo the truth. The Lakers have replaced him.
While he started Friday against the Kings, Gasol knows he’ll soon be the team’s third-string center again when Andre Drummond returns from his bruised big toe and broken toenail. For a player like Gasol, an NBA champion, a former defensive player of the year, an All-Star, a gold medalist — that kind of demotion isn’t fun to talk about.
“It’s life,” Gasol said Friday in his first comments since the Lakers added Drummond. “Things change, and you have to adapt as fast as possible. When I signed with the team, it was to contribute to help the team, especially the two main guys, to help their games and accomplish their goals, which are win another championship. So, I don’t think that’s changed.”
Asked if he thought he would remain with the Lakers for the rest of the season, Gasol said he was committed but left the door open for that to change.
“Things can change quickly in the NBA just as they have changed for me. But, I’m committed to this team,” Gasol said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow because I know I’m going to be out of the lineup at some point. It’s never easy on a player. As a basketball player, you want to play. You want to contribute, especially when you made that commitment for that reason.
“But, we’ll see.”
Gasol is averaging 4.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this season, the scoring and rebounding numbers the lowest of his career. He also missed nine games after contracting COVID-19.
Gasol didn’t sign with the Lakers for traditional stats — at least other than wins. With Gasol as part of the starting five, the Lakers have the sixth-most efficient lineup in the NBA in terms of net rating (minimum 150 minutes). The Lakers’ ‘old’ starters — Gasol, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — have held teams to 103.4 points per 100 possessions.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Friday there’s still minutes for Gasol. Maybe it’ll be because the matchups call for it. Maybe it’ll be because the Lakers experiment with Gasol-Montrezl Harrell pairings on the court at the same time.
He moved to the bench Wednesday when Drummond debuted with the Lakers, quickly entering the game to play the fourth quarter when the Lakers needed frontcourt help with Drummond injured. His performance earned praise from his coach and his teammates.
But Gasol doesn’t seem to think those chances will keep coming, and he sounded stung that if those chances do come, it’s not because the Lakers want to create them
“I think there’s an asterisk with that. I think there’s an ‘if’ — ‘if’ they need you. And it’s a big ‘if.’ … You’re not Plan A right now. You’re Plan C, D,” Gasol said. “You have to accept it because that’s your job. And that’s what you sign up to do. It’s never easy to accept that, especially when you ask if you’ve done something wrong, when you try to do everything for the team. … It’s pretty obvious I don’t care much about my stats and the shots that I get or rebounds that I get. I try to box my guy out and make the next play, help everyone out.
“It’s not easy. But it’s life. You have to adapt. Like I said, either you take it as a challenge, or you move on.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.