It finally happened. After weeks of anticipation, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel played a lineup that featured both Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol, and while it didn’t look great in the box score or on the court, Vogel believes it’s something worth revisiting.
“It was a -9 overall but that’s just because we gave up two threes during that stretch in the fourth,” Vogel said after the Lakers’ 123-110 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. “I think there are some benefits to playing a lineup like that.
“Obviously there’s some risk as well because both of them are used to defending the center position, but you want to get your best players out there and that’s something we haven’t quite looked at yet when we’re trying to manage the addition of Andre with those guys that are used to playing big minutes as well,” Vogel continued. “I did like the way it looked like tonight. I think we’re getting better, again, playing with two bigs, whether it’s Anthony and Drum or Marc and Trezz together.
“I think it was a positive even though the overall net was a negative. I think it was a positive for the energy of our group.”
In theory, a Harrell-Gasol pairing should work, at least offensively. Harrell does the majority of his work above the rim and Gasol, in the later stages of his career, has expanded his game to behind the arc. It’s also worth noting that Harrell is only as tall as the average forward, so even though they’re technically both centers, the fit isn’t unnatural.
The biggest hurdle that Harrell and Gasol will have to clear is on the defensive end and Gasol believes the only way they can do that is with strong communication; not just between them, but their teammates as well.
“I think offensively it can work just fine just because of the nature of each other and how we play,” Gasol said after practice on Monday. “On the other side we have to do a better job of communicating and being on a string. Everyone needs to be aware that it’s an adjustment process when that lineup is on the floor.
“You have to be extra alert because we both are going to gravitate with our instincts a little more towards the ball, so we have to work in tandem and the other three guys need to be aware of that. They need to be a little more alert on rotations and communication, but it’s nothing that is not possible to work. You need to work at it, you need to have a growth mindset when you go through those things,” Gasol continued, before concluding in the most Gasol way possible.
“It’s basketball, so it should be fine,” Gasol said.
There are only four games left on the Lakers’ regular season schedule, so it’s unclear if they’ll have enough time to build that chemistry or if Vogel will even play them together again. If they do get another look, it’s safe to assume they’ll look better than they did on Sunday; not just because they’ll have more reps together, but because they both seem to understand what they have to do in order to succeed together.
It’s a gamble to try new things at this stage of the season, for sure, but with how talented Harrell and Gasol are, it’s a chance that’s worth taking, if only just for these last four regular season games.