Pau Gasol and Mike D'Antoni did not see eye-to-eye often in their first season together with the Los Angeles Lakers. Gasol was benched in fourth quarters, was "demoted" to the bench in favor of Earl Clark and even said asking for a "fresh start" with another team could be a possibility if things weren't going to change going into the 2013-2014 season.
Things have certainly "changed" for the Lakers, and D'Antoni believes the 2013-2014 season will be a different situation for the two. D'Antoni alluded to the fact that appeasing Dwight Howard was a factor in his decision making regarding Gasol last season, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
"There was just a lot of factors last year that won't come up this year," D'Antoni said. "I even told (Gasol), you make decisions based a lot of times on the future that probably, if you were just doing the competitive, basketball thing, the decision would have been something else."
Gasol should have more claim to the low-post with the departure of Howard, who lacked the versatility to operate elsewhere on the floor aside from setting screens and rolling to the basket. When Gasol was given low-post opportunities, Howard could often be found out of bounds to give his frontcourt mate space to operate.
Gasol, entering his seventh season with the Lakers, also acknowledged the stance of the organization through last season:
"Obviously the franchise wanted Dwight to stay and everyone, or a lot of people, tried to make him comfortable and please him at times."
D'Antoni has been non-committal about the starting lineup, often pointing to training camp as an opportunity to sort through the new faces which include Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Farmar. He did, however, give McMenamin the impression that Kaman and Gasol would start together:
The coach also thinks that Gasol and newly acquired center Chris Kaman will be a natural fit together in the starting lineup.
"I just see them kind of blending in together pretty easily," D'Antoni said. "A lot easier than it was last year (with Howard), let's put it that way."
Both D'Antoni and Gasol appear to be taking the high road as they enter a fresh season together.
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