If there was any doubt in your mind about whether or not the Lakers intended to start new signing Andre Drummond over Marc Gasol, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel dispelled it at the team’s practice on Tuesday.
“He’s going to start tomorrow night,” Vogel said when asked about Drummond’s role.
So it’s official: For the first time this season, Gasol will come off the bench. Notably, that confirmation came on the same day as a story from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report in which multiple anonymous executives theorized that Gasol could be bought out, but before you start debating who the Lakers should add with the extra roster spot, it would seem a buyout isn’t really something the team is considering internally.
First, Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported that “Gasol is unlikely to be waived by the Lakers,” and then Vogel said at practice that Gasol hadn’t even broached the topic with him.
“He has not talked about that,” Vogel said, adding that Gasol has handled the demotion as well as possible (Gasol has not spoken to the media since the decision was made, so he has yet to be asked for his thoughts).
“Marc’s had a difficult run with the health and safety protocols and some other things, and all I can say is that he’s loved here. These guys respect him so much,” Vogel said. “He’s been a true pro in handling this, and we’re going to need all three of our centers throughout this playoff push and championship run.”
That last point is a big reason why the Lakers getting rid of Gasol never made any sense if he wanted to be here. As we covered extensively this morning, beyond the fact that he’s still a useful player, the Lakers also have Gasol under a cheap contract for next season too, when they’re unlikely to have Drummond or Montrezl Harrell because they don’t have either players’ Bird rights, and can’t go over the cap to re-sign them. Gasol can help them in spot minutes now and contribute next year too, when the Lakers will need all the affordable depth they can get while facing a massive tax bill.
But it’s also not just next year that Gasol can help. Vogel insisted at practice that he can still play an important role this year, too.
“This is just one of those things where all three of those guys have got to recognize how important they are to our team. We intend to use them, and hopefully win a championship with all three of those guys,” Vogel said. “it’s not much more complicated than that. We have to keep everybody sharp, getting opportunities, and when your number is called in certain matchup or if there are injuries or whatever, those guys have to stay ready, and it’s my job to keep them ready. So that’s going to be the plan going forward.”