Steve Nash doesn’t have an X’s and O’s answer for the optimum way for injured Los Angeles Lakers stars Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard to play together, but he does believe they can both figure it out by putting in the effort.
“I don’t know what the best way is to make them play together, but I know one thing is that they both got to just play hard and believe and not worry about — ‘Hey, how can we make this work,’ ” Nash said. “We just got to fight and scrap and on defense, use their length and athleticism and on offense, we all got to just be unselfish and sacrifice and make plays for each other regardless of where we are on the floor.”
Gasol has missed the past three games after sustaining a concussion against the Denver Nuggets when JaVale McGee inadvertently elbowed his nose.
Gasol was re-evaluated on Saturday and not cleared to resume basketball activities. He will receive another examination Sunday morning in advance of the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Gasol will be a game-time decision.
Howard also has missed the past three games with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He participated in on-court conditioning exercises Saturday and will be re-evaluated Sunday. The Lakers are officially listing Howard as out, but D’Antoni said he will be a game-time decision.
While Gasol has been out, the Lakers (15-21) have floundered, losing three straight games to extend their losing streak to six — the worst skid for the franchise since it lost seven in a row in March 2007.
Nash also said it will be part of his responsibility as a point guard to get Gasol going when the big men do get back in the lineup. Gasol is averaging career lows in both points per game (12.1) and shooting percentage (41.6 percent) this season.
“I’m going to try to get Pau involved,” Nash said. “Obviously, I think he’s a terrific player. I think when we played together recently, there was a lot of opportunities where (the defense) would jump out on my pick-and-rolls, I’d get it back to him quickly. He can be the playmaker in 4-on-3, 3-on-2 situations where he really thrives. The fact of the matter, it’s tough to get inside to him when Dwight and him are on the floor together. To Pau’s credit, he can stretch the floor more than Dwight and he’s more of a playmaker, so sometimes he’s going to find himself on the perimeter.”
In Nash’s opinion, it’s Gasol’s mental game, not his positioning on the court, that matters most.
“I think Pau is a tremendous basketball player,” Nash said. “I need to see him get his health and his confidence back. Even when he has been inside this year he hasn’t looked very confident. For me, I really want to see him really feel better physically, mentally, confident and enjoy the game because I don’t know if he’s been himself this year. If we can get him back to himself, it doesn’t matter where he plays. He’ll be great.”
Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss told ESPNLA 710 radio in Los Angeles on Thursday that when Gasol returns, he wants the former four-time All-Star to receive more touches on the block.
“I love Pau Gasol,” Buss said. “The thing is, if you shoot the basketball from six feet, your percentages are going to be in the high 50s. If you shoot from 18 feet, you’re lucky to get 40 percent. To base his year off of his shooting percentages is just not the right way to analyze how he’s playing.
“I believe if we can get him down low, he can coexist with Dwight Howard if they play enough games to where they can play off each other. I believe eventually he will move down there and D’Antoni will move him down there and his percentage will go back right to where it was.”
D’Antoni said he has spoken to Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak about fixing things for Gasol before the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-101 on Friday.
“We talked about it and I think it’s pretty evident we’d like to get him more touches down there,” D’Antoni said. “… There are going to be a lot of changes (when Gasol and Howard return). We have to try to do everything and if that works, yeah, we’ll do it in a heartbeat.”