Mitch Kupchak: Lakers must figure out how to use Pau Gasol

Doug Pensinger

Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said both Pau Gasol and his coaches are struggling in how to use the forward.

Pau Gasol continues to struggle under Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni, and General Manager Mitch Kupchak told a group of season-ticket holders on Sunday that it's up to both players and coaches to find solutions, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"I think Pau continues to struggle to figure out how he's going to play with his group," Kupchak said. "Our coaches are struggling as well. We're not going to succeed as a team until we figure that out."

It's been clear all along that Gasol is more comfortable posting up and making plays for others rather than acting as a stretch power forward in D'Antoni's offense. He and D'Antoni met a few weeks ago in order to discuss how the forward could be better utilized in the paint with center Dwight Howard.

It's still not working. Struggling to find a groove, Gasol was benched in the fourth quarter after going 1-for-6 from the floor in 27 minutes during a 107-102 loss on Friday to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Said Gasol to ESPN Los Angeles following the game:

"I still believe," he said. "I still have faith in what we have. I still have faith that I can be a big part in helping this team succeed. Right now, I'm not being able to do that very often."

The Lakers forward certainly is being utilized like never before, but his shot distribution isn't all that different.

His numbers suggest he's just struggling. In 2011-12 under coach Mike Brown, 22.8 percent of Gasol's shots were paint attempts outside of the restricted area, and he made 46 percent of those. The distribution in the paint dipped a little bit to 18.9 percent this year, but he's only hit 23 percent of those shots, according to the NBA Stats tool.

His mid-range numbers in both distribution (40.3 last year to 41.6 this year) and the percentages (42 percent to 39 percent) in the last two seasons are comparable. Gasol's biggest jump has been in non-corner three-pointers, which account for 6 percent of his attempts. Those shots accounted for just 1 percent of Gasol's shots last season.

Overall, he is shooting 41.6 percent from the floor this season. In his 11 prior NBA seasons, Gasol hasn't shot worse than 48.2 percent.

But as Kupchak concludes, the onus is also on D'Antoni to figure things out.

In some of his more successful seasons running the Seven Seconds or Less offense with the Phoenix Suns, D'Antoni had a pick-and-roll man in Amare Stoudemire play with a sound passing post player in Boris Diaw. But D'Antoni also left the Suns after struggling to fit Stoudemire with an aging Shaquille O'Neal.

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