Marc Gasol recently revealed that part of the reason he chose to join the Lakers in free agency was the chance to reunite with his former Memphis Grizzlies head coach, Lionel Hollins, who is now an assistant under Frank Vogel in Los Angeles. And according to Vogel, Hollins has been instrumental in helping the Lakers fit Gasol into what they want to do on both ends of the floor.
“I think he’s been invaluable in that regard, very similar to having Phil Handy and Jason Kidd having prior experience with LeBron, and Mike Penberthy having experience with Anthony,” Vogel said. “The more information you know about a player, the easier it is to integrate them. And that would apply to Lionel’s relationship with Marc, and I think it’s been invaluable in terms of fitting him in early on.”
So far, that process has been good. Gasol may have the third-lowest usage rate on the team — just 10.6% of the team’s possessions end in him shooting, assisting or turning the ball over — the lowest rate of his career, but that is actually higher, however, than the 8.6% he was using prior to LeBron James saying the team needed to run more offense through Gasol. Since then, Gasol has been using 12.5% of the team’s possessions, which is right on par with what he was doing with the Raptors’ last year (13.2%).
But regardless of how many possessions Gasol has used, with Hollins’ help, the team has integrated him about as well as possible this season, to the point that they’re 11.7 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the floor than they are when he sits. Part of that is him playing a ton of minutes with the Lakers’ two stars, James and Anthony Davis, but Gasol’s skill at greasing the wheels of the offense and serving as a 7-foot obstacle for teams to try and shoot around on defense has been on full display so far.
We’ll see how the Lakers ultimately continue to utilize Gasol, and which direction they go with the portion of possessions he continues to use, but in Hollins, they’re lucky to have a coach with so much prior experience helping Gasol be his best on their bench. Gasol developed from an overweight, second-round project to a Defensive Player of the Year under Hollins, and their reunion to chase a ring is definitely one of the more subplots of this title defense. Hollins taught Gasol habits that he still uses to this day, and it’s a fair bet that as the Lakers continue to figure out exactly how he fits in best to what they want to do, the man who helped Gasol become the player he is today will be a big asset for them.