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Kyle Kuzma seeks solution to fight Lakers, agitates publicly for more minutes of Mark Gasol



Mark Gasol’s playing time has been the subject of much debate among Los Angeles Lakers fans since Andre Drummond arrived. The future Hall of Famer started the first 35 games of the season for the Lakers and regained its place after a match with COVID-19, but was held by nine of their 17 games after Drummond’s debut. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Lakers are 6-11 in these games.

Fans are wondering why Drummond had to replace Gasol for weeks, but on Sunday a Lakers player even admitted that the team would benefit from the veteran’s presence. “I’m not sure what to do,” said Kyle Kuzma after the team̵

7;s third straight defeat, this time at the hands of the undefeated Toronto Raptors. “I wish we had a little more time there with Mark [Gasol]. That would be something that would be pretty good for us, for sure. “

The statistical case in favor of Gasol is striking. He is the only center on the team with a positive plus-minus since Drummond arrived at plus-13. The Lakers were beaten by six points with Drummond on the floor, and even worse, they lost to Montrell Harrell by 61 points. Before Anthony Davis was injured, the starting lineup with him, Gasol, LeBron James, Kentavid Caldwell-Pope and Dennis Schroeder destroyed the teams with 13.9 points per 100 possessions. The sample is small, but so far Drummond and Davis have played 133 minutes together and the Lakers have lost those minutes by 26 points. They were trying to find some chemistry in the defense, and it was insulting that Drummond’s presence as a non-shooter blocked Davis’s paint.

Gasol’s shooting makes it easier for his teammates to reach the basket, and his passing is contagious. The Lakers have 64 percent assists with him on the floor and 59.1 percent assists when he is on the bench. He is in no way equal to Drummond as an athlete, but he remains an effective defender, thanks to his high basketball IQ.

Teams with as much stellar power as the Lakers need these things outside of their role players. The Lakers won the championship last season because their supporting squad made smart plays, hitting timely shots and defending at an extremely high level. They are not doing these things at the moment and even the players admit it.

Ironically, in particular, the Gasol-Kuzma pairing was not very successful. In 442 minutes on the court together, the Lakers were defeated by 27 points. This doesn’t make much sense in the big picture, as most of those minutes came with Davis and many others came without James, but it’s not as if Gasol and Kuzma were some of the main couples in this iteration of the Lakers. They have been teammates for only about five months, but even in this short period Kuzma has seen what Gasol can give to his team and is ready to campaign publicly for more.

This is not an action that every player takes lightly. This is especially rare in a champion team. Frank Vogel takes advantage of the doubt and brilliantly manages the rotation on the way to the 2020 championship. But something is wrong for the Lakers at the moment and if even a major player thinks the rotation needs to be shaken, this is something the team should seriously consider.




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