Pau Gasol talked to assembled media members at the Toyota Center in advance of L.A.’s game vs. Houston on Thursday night. Gasol discussed Dwight Howard’s free agency decision, summarized L.A.’s 2012-13 season and the state of the Lakers offensively and defensively through five games. Below is a transcript:
Q: On if he was surprised or disappointed about Dwight Howard’s decision:
Gasol: I was kind of open to everything and anything, just like any other time. He made his decision and he thought that was the best choice for him. I respect him for it, and that’s it.
Q: On if he expects the atmosphere to be crazier in L.A. when they face Houston:
Gasol: I’m sure, I’m sure. I’m pretty positive it will be a little different on our court than here (in Houston). We have to worry about our situation and what we’re dealing with now and we have to play better on the road. Houston is playing really well, especially here at home. It’s going to be a tough game for us, so we have to be able to challenge them and play a good game for 48 minutes, and not have the breakdowns that we’ve been having, especially on the road, where we haven’t been successful.
Q: On if he feels everything that could go wrong did go wrong last season for the team:
Gasol: A lot of things went wrong last year, for sure. A lot of adversity and nothing really clicked. It was a tough year for everyone, not for one individual. Pretty much for the entire team, it was a tough year to go through. You have to understand in the NBA you have those types of years, and those years are the ones that make you grow and you can use those years to build on and to work even harder to achieve later success.
Q: On if anybody knew to an extent about where Howard’s body was really at last year coming off back surgery:
Gasol: Kind of hard to say, right? I can’t speak for a person’s body, how he’s feeling and what he’s going through. We knew he wasn’t 100 percent, that’s what he talked about and that’s what he shared. Then he had the shoulder issue as well, but we all had issues.
Q: On if it’s hard to reconcile that Howard did not see his future in L.A.:
Gasol: No, like I said, it was his first time being in a free agent position. He had the freedom to pick his future, and he picked it. It wasn’t with the Lakers. It was with the Rockets, so good luck and that’s it.
Q: On what he feels the future of the Lakers is:
Gasol: There’s a lot of question marks. We’re just trying to focus on our season and on our next game. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen next year, who’s going to be here and who’s not. We’re going to try and focus on what we can control, which is working hard every day to get better and have a better season.
Q: On the keys to going after Howard defensively:
Gasol: You have to be able to move him around. You can’t really overpower him, so you have to keep in constant movement and make him uncomfortable, get him out of position, get him to be late to rotate and things like that. That’s what you have to do to be successful against him.
Q: On his view about the dynamic between Kobe Bryant and Howard last year:
Gasol: There was definitely a lack of understanding and connection. I don’t know how much tension there was, but there were days it was fine and everybody was on the same page, and when things get a little rough, usually that’s when the tension came up. Like I said it was a rough year and a lot of things didn’t go our way, and that made it much more difficult.
Q: On if he follows the Rockets and what Howard does:
Gasol: I follow almost every team in the league, so I’m on top of what every player does, especially at my position. I follow the top players and I just follow the NBA. I follow what teams do, what players do and who’s doing well and who’s not.
Q: On if there was any period last year where the Lakers had fun playing:
Gasol: The last stretch was a little fun. That’s when we made that run to get into the playoffs. I think that was fun. The team competed, we were fighting to get in and that was fun. I think we had a couple games in there that we all kind of enjoyed playing together without too many issues, but for the most part, that wasn’t the case.
Q: On what he wants to see individually and from the team in pick-and-roll situations:
Gasol: Sometimes we get too stagnant and we don’t create advantages. We have to create motion out of the pick and rolls, so that’s what we’re going to try and do more of from now on. Keep our guys moving, (make) the defense move and for guys to be open from those actions. If we’re going to continue to run it, we have to do it more effectively. Hopefully when I roll, it’ll get me closer to the basket, too, and the ball might get there often, so that’s kind of the plan.
Q: On when he chooses to pop or roll on offense, or whether it’s based off reads:
Gasol: I’m going to try and read the defense, but most of the time, I’m going to try and get myself closer to the basket. Otherwise we get too stagnant at times and we’re not creating anything. Our guards are not too fast, so we have to create advantages other ways.
Q: On coming to Houston last season in early January and if it was a low point with all three big men (himself, Howard and Hill) injured:
Gasol: It was a tough winter. I think we played San Antonio, Houston and then New Orleans – a similar trip to this one. Injuries just came together that way and we were super short handed. It was not easy for us and not ideal for us. It was the kind of year that it was. Sometimes it goes that way. It’s not going to be sunny all the time.
Q: On what he expected when Steve Nash and Howard came to L.A.:
Gasol: I was definitely hopeful. But I knew there was a lot of work to do. You don’t win games by showing up on the court and wearing a certain number or certain name. You have to work and you have to create chemistry, you have to create certain habits on the floor, understand your strengths and weaknesses and work on them every single day. We had a coaching staff change and a totally different system came in – a system that probably didn’t fit our personnel. It was a lot of stuff. I’m sure you grasp some of it, but as you go through it, you don’t understand how much stuff we had to go through.
Q: On if he felt Howard didn’t give it his all because he knew he wasn’t going to be here:
Gasol: I don’t think so. I think he had certain expectations and certain demands as far as the game that probably weren’t fulfilled. It was also a big job of adjusting. We all had to adjust. He had to adjust and keep up and (we had to) sacrifice ourselves for the betterment of the team. ‘How much are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the betterment of the team? Understand what it takes and what the team needs from you specifically, not what you would like to give in particular.’ Those are some of the questions individually we all should have asked ourselves and worked on from there on out. You live and you learn. It just didn’t work out. We’re trying to work this out right here and this is enough of a challenge right now.
Q: On his thoughts on the team’s defense thus far:
Gasol: Inconsistent and not enough. We just have to be engaged defensively, we have to be more active and we have to communicate. We don’t communicate and we don’t create energy for ourselves and that puts us in big trouble. That’s what we have to do whoever is out there regardless of the lineups, we have to establish a communication and connection amongst the players that are on the floor. Otherwise, we’re going to struggle. Teams are too good offensively and we have to understand that.
Q: On what makes it harder this year with Howard not in the middle:
Gasol: You don’t have a shot blocker back there that will bail you some of the time, that will protect the rim like Dwight can with his athleticism. He also is a guy that gets his hands on ball and he’s aggressive. He gets a couple steals a game. Those are extra possessions. We have to make up for that in different areas. We have smaller guys that are quicker and more athletic and we have to utilize that.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni talked to the media about Howard’s free agency decision, what specifically he would like to see from his team out of pick-and-roll situations on offense, Xavier Henry’s play and his thought process behind whether choosing to play big or small lineups. Below is a transcript:
Q: On Howard’s decision to go to Houston:
D’Antoni: It’s too bad. We would have loved for him to have been here in L.A. It didn’t work out. We turned the page and you go on. We knew there were some problems and we didn’t know which way he’d go. He picked Houston and I’m sure he’ll make the best of it, and we’ll make the best of it.
Q: On if Howard was the one that got away from them:
D’Antoni: When you’ve been around long enough, there’s a lot that got away. I was in New York and we tried to go after some high guys, and there’s a lot that gets away. That’s the business you’re in. You just have to retool and do it. Everybody does what’s best for them and Dwight (Howard) did what was best for him. There’s more ways to get where you need to get.
Q: On what he’s expecting from a defensive front line of Omer Asik and Howard:
D’Antoni: They’re good. They do a lot of pick and rolls and run the floor. Obviously their defensive presence is good. You have to try to spread them out and do as well as you can.
Q: On his view on the Howard and Bryant dynamic:
D’Antoni: Everybody wanted to win a championship. Some people weren’t healthy. Sometimes it gets complicated and personalities get complicated. It was a situation where it didn’t’ work out to a certain degree. I thought towards the end, they were good. They were good together. Like I said, everybody chooses what’s best for them personally and family, and everything else. Nobody knows the total decision why and you just have to play off of it.
Q: On if he thought towards the end of the year that it could work out with Howard:
D’Antoni: 50-50. It was one of those things you didn’t know. You never know what people are thinking, and again, you never know someone’s personal life and what they want or looking for. You just don’t know.
Q: On what he would like to see from the team in the screen and roll action:
D’Antoni: We just have to put the effort. For whatever reason, we have a hard time sustaining our effort mentally and focused in on being gritty. We’re not there. We’re kind of playing in the old NBA trot. We’re not good enough to fall in like everybody else. Somehow we have to distinguish ourselves and that’s by grit and determination, and we’re not there yet.
Q: On if he would like to see more rolling action to the basket on offense:
D’Antoni: More rolling. That’s what we want to do. Again, mid-range shots aren’t the best shots in the world. If that’s what you want to get, that’s not a winning formula.
Q: On if he gives his players the option to either pop or roll:
D’Antoni: Almost 90 percent of the time, we want you to roll hard because we have another big (out there) and he’ll be the popper. You always have one shooter outside. What we’re missing is a dynamic force going to the basket. Kobe (Bryant) would give you that but we don’t have that force anywhere. So now we kind of play on the perimeter and sometimes it works out a little bit. But that’s not what we need to do.
Q: On if he knew the extent of Howard’s health last year:
D’Antoni: Yeah, he said he wasn’t healthy all the way until February or so. You could see it. It just complicated a lot of stuff.
Q: On Xavier Henry’s play thus far and where he needs to improve:
D’Antoni: Just getting his consistency. He’s a young player at 22 years old and hasn’t had much playing time. All of a sudden, he’s in the Lakers starting lineup. It’s tough, and tough to handle all that. He’s not a great shooter some nights, but I think still he’s positive when he’s on the floor. He’s running the floor well, playing good defense, so I think he’ll even (it all out), and he’ll keep getting better as a shooter.
Q: On his sense of when he’s looking at whether to play big or small lineups:
D’Antoni: My message was we’re not sustaining our energy to where we can make an intelligent decision. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, and we don’t run back and we don’t have grit, how do we know if something works or not? It’s almost like: ‘Oh that doesn’t work.’ Well, let’s show it. Let’s see it. If we all play hard, then we’ll make a decision. Again, a little bit of the responsibility is players have to separate themselves. They have to show everybody this is the way to go. Right now we’re trying to grasp at straws now and we just can’t do that.