One thing that really confuses me is how Mike D'Antoni is getting so much blame for the Lakers lack of success. It goes back to the metaphor of whether you believe the chef or the ingredients are more important, I guess, but there are some things that confuse me. The latest of these is the news that Pau Gasol has lost his starting job to Earl Clark.
The news has caused a huge backlash against D'Antoni:
The decision to bring the power forward off the bench is confusing not only because he is simply on another level compared to Clark in terms of skill, but also because of what it does to the value of Gasol should the team seek for a trade, as noted by Bill Simmons:
If I were a Laker fan I'd be so pissed off right now. They won't even get 50 cents on the dollar for Pau at this point. Well done Mike D. - @BillSimmons
My Twitter feed was also full of hate for this decision. Except for some smart folks like @SherwoodStrauss, who points out that if you want to snipe at D'Antoni for ruining Pau's trade value, you also have to give him credit for creating trade value out of thin air for Earl Clark. I mean, if .50 on the dollar is what teams are offering for Pau, about $8 on the dollar is what they'll offer for Earl Clark. And Pau's stock was not high before D'Antoni took this job. Anyone who bothers to look past the standard guys-sitting-around-at-the-bar trash talk should immediately recognize that if anything, this helps the Lakers overall trade talk positions. No one was ringing the phones off the hook for Pau but I bet that more than a few GMs are now interested in Earl Clark. Arguments about the destruction of trade value here...well, they should begin and end with every interview that Kobe Bryant has given about Pau for the past three years.
What further confuses me is these factors:
- Everybody, regardless of their preferred method of player evaluation, agrees that Pau is not playing like the Pau of tw years ago. PER, WP, RAPM, The Eyeball, choose your metric, it does not matter, everyone agrees
- Everybody seems to agree that Earl Clark has been playing fabulously in the time he's been given so far.
Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that we all agree about why this is the case. It could be age, injuries, fitness level, his role in the team, etc. But everyone seems to agree on the facts. And I might point out to James Park, the author of the above piece, that being "on another level in terms of skill" does not, actually, score points or win basketball games. For whatever reasons, Pau is not performing up to his usual levels. Potential won't buy you anything but draft lottery tickets.
It seems like D'Antoni cannot win here. He gives the starting job to the player that everyone agrees is playing better now, and the press villifies him for it. If I had to hazard a guess, if he started Pau, the press would be urging him to give more playing time to the spunky young PF who is performing so well.
Hey internet: Why U Mad?