Last season, Mike D’Antoni and Pau Gasol kind of got off on the wrong foot, and most of that was thanks to Dwight Howard; because Howard was a pending free agent, the Lakers were trying to please him (and in turn, get him to re-sign this summer) so Gasol was once again pushed to the side and asked to play the game a different way. He was also battling multiple injuries, so asking him to do things such as guarding smaller and quicker power forwards on a nightly basis was a tough task.
However, when the Spaniard played at the center position, he was able to show off his skills in the post and was a far more capable on defense due to marking a guy more his size.
This season, Pau figures to play at the center position most (if not all) the time, and Lakers fans should be pretty happy about this, especially seeing as the two-time NBA champion is the best center in the league. Well, at least according to D’Antoni he is.
Here’s what D’Antoni said today in an interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com,
But let me say this about Pau Gasol: to me, he’s the best center in the NBA. I can say that now, and whether I’m totally 100 percent right, people can argue with me. They may rank him second, or third, or eighth. I don’t know, but his pedigree is he wins at everything he does. He has two championships (and international titles). I don’t think there’s even an argument about who the most skilled big man is, when you put it all together. There are some that look at a Picasso or a Monet, and like one or the other, and that’s why they have talk shows. But it’s silly to think anything different than that he’s a great, great player.
When healthy, Pau is definitely the most skilled big man in the league; his combination of deadly moves in the post, along with his nice shooting touch and crazy passing skills really makes him a one-of-a-kind player, especially seeing as he’s seven feet tall. However, Pau’s brother Marc and a healthy Howard will be looking to claim the “best center” title this season thanks to their defensive accolades.
Although, it’s worth remembering that Gasol defended Howard beautifully during the 2009 NBA Finals, so maybe D’Antoni has a point…