On opening night last season, Danny Green had a dream regular season debut with the Los Angeles Lakers. In 32:20 against the Clippers, Green scored 28 points — the most points any player has ever scored in their Lakers debut — on an impressive 10-14 shooting from the field. He also added seven rebounds to his stat line.
Unfortunately, Marc Gasol’s Lakers debut wasn’t nearly as exciting. After getting into early foul trouble, Gasol played just 12 minutes against the Clippers on Tuesday. He ended the game with one rebound, one assist, one turnover and five personal fouls. Things couldn’t have gone much worse for him.
“Tough, tough, tough game,” Gasol said of his performance. “I never got in a rhythm offensively. Obviously, I never really had a chance to be in a lot of actions and help my teammates, and the team. And defensively, I just got put in a couple bad positions from the get go. Little ticky-tack fouls. The referees were being very ... hard cutted it in the first half of the game, I think, and I got the worst end of the stick a couple times.
“When you’re in foul trouble, you always play more cautious, but I got in foul trouble again, in every chance I got to get in the game. But you know, it can only get better from now, so that’s that’s definitely a positive.”
The strange thing about Gasol’s regular season debut was that he looked solid in the preseason. While he shot a low percentage from the field, he showed that he was capable of making plays from the center position, which created looks that the Lakers didn’t generate often last season. We didn’t see much of that on Tuesday, and Vogel blamed himself for that.
“He’s gonna be fine,” Vogel said. “Obviously, being matched up with a 3-point shooter is a challenge for all bigs, but we had coverages in places that we weren’t weren’t sharp up enough covering for him. And, you know, I’m disappointing myself. I didn’t put the ball in his hands more in the top of the key like we did in the preseason to take advantage of his passing ability. But, you know, it’s part of learning new players and getting guys comfortable and acclimated.”
Gasol wasn’t a fan of his head coach taking the fall for his performance, though. As someone who has been in the league for over a decade, Gasol doesn’t think anyone should be making excuses for him. He feels as though he could have been better, even with the obstacles he had to face.
“As a player, you have to read the game, and every game is different,” Gasol said. “I foremost feel bad because we lost the game more than I am that a didn’t play to the level that I should play. I didn’t get involved offensively, and defensively, I was always in foul trouble. So, that was tough.
“But I think I have to read the game and there’s games where we have great players and teams are going to do different things ... I think you have to impact the game in different ways. There’s only one basketball and five players out there. Trust me, it’s okay. I’ll find ways to impact the game. I’ll just get adjusted to that too and keep playing on the right way.”
The truth is that they both could have done better, and they’ll learn to do better in time. After all, it was only the first game of the season and the Clippers had every incentive to try and start their season on a high note.
The Lakers we saw on Tuesday, and the Gasol we saw on Tuesday, will look different in the later stages of the season. It’s like Gasol said: it’s okay — they’ll figure it out.