Pau Gasol not happy about late-game benching

Stephen Dunn

Pau Gasol says that the Lakers should be playing their best players at the end of games. What will L.A. do with its disgruntled big man?

Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol expressed unhappiness with his lack of playing time following the team's 111-106 win against the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night, Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles reports.

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While the Lakers appear to finally be rounding into form after spending the first half of the season in disarray, winning may not cure all in this situation. Since being dropped from the starting lineup last week in favor of Earl Clark, Gasol has been vocal in complaining about his current role with the team, despite the apparent success it's yielded on the court.

"I'm a competitor, I'm a guy that thinks I bring a lot to the table, and not being on the floor is something that I don't like, I don't appreciate," Gasol said.

After playing around 37 minutes per game over the previous five-plus seasons, Gasol is seeing just 32 minutes per game this season. That figure is dropping, too; since Mike D'Antoni's decision to bench Gasol, he's averaging just 28 minutes per contest.

While Gasol has still had some strong games during the recent stretch, he says that, "I think the best players should finish off games," and, "I'm challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words."

Gasol may be one of the Lakers' five best players, but D'Antoni clearly has lost faith in a roster that heavily features the Spaniard, slowly turning more responsibility over to Clark, particularly in late game situations. For a veteran with All-Star Games, NBA Finals and Olympic gold medal games under his belt, Gasol's frustration isn't a shock.

At this point, with the Lakers finally showing some signs of life, a major deal involving Gasol doesn't feel especially likely. Things could change quickly, though, particularly if Gasol continues to be upset with his role on the team.

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