It’s a given that defending champions have a big target on their backs. Whoever’s at the throne is glad to have that challenge. They are brimming with confidence and know they have to fight and prove their title night in and night out.
No one told the Los Angeles Lakers things will be turned up a notch for them, though.
Aside from the usual grind, the record-setting short off-season, and the daily health protocols, injuries suddenly popped up too, which came from the last two players they wanted to get hit: their pair of superstars. Anthony Davis hasn’t played since February 15 due to an ailing achilles, while LeBron James has been out since March 20th with a high ankle sprain. Both are without a definite timetable for a return.
As if it wasn’t enough, something’s now brewing with first-year Laker and starting center Marc Gasol – it’s not an injury but it can be just as concerning.
Always regarded as a consummate professional, and one who never says anything that can stir issues, Gasol suddenly hinted that he’s frustrated with the team’s decision to sign Andre Drummond, who will bump him out of the starting lineup.
Checkout what he told the media this weekend when asked to address his potentially new role with the Purple and Gold.
“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. … 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.”
Here’s one more interesting note: the statement came after he finally agreed to speak with the LA media following Drummond’s signing. He continuously declined interviews for days.
Later, when reporters pressed about his interest in staying as a Laker, Gasol reiterated his commitment but also subtly expressed that he’s open to other options:
“Things can change quickly in the NBA, just as they have changed for me … But, I’m committed to this team. 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.”Marc Gasol
Does Gasol have the right to be frustrated?
Gasol joined the Lakers in the off-season on a two-year deal worth $2.56 million per year, the veteran’s minimum for players with least 10 years of experience. It’s not to ride James and Davis’s coattails for a ring, though. He’s a prideful vet that can provide a thing or two. He’s also likely promised to have a good role, hence his disappointment with Drummond suddenly being brought in. It’s very likely that he’ll be sitting on the bench more and more.
The front office and coaching staff weren’t exactly dishonest, though. The team was unfortunately put in a tough position following James and Davis’s injuries, so they had to act quick. The supporting cast wasn’t getting the job done and it’s steadily dipping the Lakers in the West standings.
In fact, even before James got hurt, it was clear that Gasol and back-up center/Sixth Man Montrezl Harrell are not able to hold things down in the paint defensively without Davis’s presence. The Lakers also likely thought that the team needed an added firepower of some sort since one of their title rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, bolstered their own roster with Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
It’s entirely possible that Drummond becomes a huge bust for the Lakers, even once James and Davis finally return, but it’s a move that had to be done as it’ll give the team new energy and options, especially on defense.