Now that Dwight Howard is somebody else’s problem, Pau Gasol will be the starting center for the Los Angeles Lakers. However, that leaves a hole at the power forward position.
The main contenders to start at the 4 are Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman, Shawne Williams, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly (acording to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles) and it appears that D’Antoni will experiment with different line-ups during the pre-season in search of a solid rotation for opening night:[pullquote]”When your knees hurt, it’s not easy to play,” D’Antoni said after practice Monday, referring to the 33 games Gasol missed a year ago because of chronic pain in his knees. “I think he feels better and when he feels good, I think he’s going to be great. Keep your fingers crossed because hopefully he’ll have his best year ever. He’s still young enough, he’s only 33.”
D’Antoni wasn’t finished with the praise yet.
“I think he has at least five more good years, real good years, in him,” D’Antoni said.
With Gasol’s role firmly entrenched, D’Antoni is turning his sights to a five-man group of Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson, Shawne Williams and rookie Ryan Kelly, to a lesser extent, to determine who will be his partner in the Lakers’ starting frontcourt.
“Pau can play with anybody,” D’Antoni said. “He makes anybody look good with his passing, so, you can play him with Jordan who is more of a runner and slasher, or you can play Kaman who is more of a catch-and-shoot kind of guy, so they’ll all blend in real well together.”[/pullquote]
It’ll probably come down to Hill or Kaman starting at the power forward position. Hill will likely give the Lakers a more defensive look – plus he’ll clean up the boards, as always – though there’s still questions about whether he can spread the floor for Gasol in the post, unlike Kaman who is a reliable mid-range shooter. However, Kaman isn’t as active on defense and the boards as Hill.
The Lakers have options and that’s always a good thing. Hopefully, the coaching staff will able to determine the strongest starting line-up within the next few weeks ahead of the team’s opening night game against the Los Angeles Clippers on October 29.