Despite reduced role, Marc Gasol committed to Lakers -- for now

Lakers and Clippers face off in battle for Los Angeles
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It’s never easy to accept the circumstances of fate at the twilight of an NBA career when a player has had so much success.

But that’s the situation Los Angeles Lakers center Marc Gasol finds himself in when his team basically signed his replacement in the starting lineup in Andre Drummond.

The Lakers sought a more dynamic rim protector and rebounder inside to help defend their NBA championship in what they hope is a deep postseason run. And now with a three-center rotation of Drummond, Gasol and Montrezl Harrell, someone will have to deal with a reduction of minutes.

That someone will likely be Gasol, who did not see the floor until the fourth quarter in Drummond’s Lakers’ debut, a home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in which he suffered a bruised right big toe.

Drummond is day-to-day, which meant Gasol temporarily returned to the starting lineup in L.A’s road win against Sacramento on Friday. However, Gasol also understands he’s likely headed back to the bench when Drummond’s healthy.

Drummond is questionable for Sunday’s afternoon contest in the battle for Los Angeles between the Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Gasol had politely declined to speak publicly since Drummond’s arrival, but spoke to reporters after the game Friday.

“Things get thrown at you and you have to adapt as quick as possible,” Gasol said. “As you can imagine, it is what it is.”

It’s been a tough month for Gasol, who also missed nine games when he contracted COVID-19. Asked if he wanted to remain with the Lakers, this is what Gasol had to say.

“Things can change quickly in the NBA, just as they have changed for me,” Gasol said. “But I’m committed to this team. It’s a hard pill to swallow because I know I’m going to be out of the lineup at some point, and it’s never easy on a player. As a basketball player, you always want to play -- you want to contribute, especially when you made that commitment for that reason. But we’ll see.”

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said his team will need Gasol’s contribution at some point this season. Gasol’s averaging just 4.8 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes a game. However, Vogel said Gasol’s stat line doesn’t fully reflect his contribution to the team.

“People need to understand how good of a player Marc Gasol is, and how valuable he is to what we’re doing,” Vogel said. “We’re going to play our most important players. So, he’s going to help us win a championship this year. That’s the plan. That’s the vision. Obviously, Andre coming along gives us the depth, but we’re going to need all three of those guys.

“We’ve stated that from Day 1. Marc is one of our most important players. He dominated the game tonight (a win on Friday against Sacramento) with five points. This is what Marc brings to the table. He’s a dominant, defensive big -- a former Defensive Player of the Year -- and he doesn’t need shots offensively, which is good for our group. He facilitates, and he wins the offensive possession with his passing and three-point shooting.”

While Vogel said he’ll need all three centers at some point this season, Gasol said that remains to be season.

“I think there’s an asterisk to that,” Gasol said. “I think there’s an ‘if’; ‘if’ they need you, and it’s a big ‘if.’ You’re not Plan A right now. You’re Plan C or D. You have to accept it because it’s your job and that’s what you signed up to do. But it’s never easy to accept that, especially when you are asked if you’ve done something wrong and you try to do everything for the team.

“Obviously, I don’t care much about my stats, the shots I get or the rebounds I get. I try to box my guy out, make the next play and help everyone out. So, it’s not easy, but it’s life. You have to adapt. Either you take it as a challenge, or you move on.”