Sunday, March 2, 2008

Following the Gasol lead?

LOS ANGELES – The suggestion has been made the Pau Gasol trade to the Lakers triggered the flurry of activity that reshaped the Western Conference. Avery Johnson downplayed that notion Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a different year,” he said. “I think everybody had a chance to do what they thought was in the best interest of their basketball team and it just so happened that it came post-Lakers trade. I know we had to do what’s best for us.

“I know Phoenix made a move. They did something that they felt was best for their team. Some teams didn’t make a major move. Maybe it was something a little subtle like the Spurs did with Kurt Thomas.”

Los Angeles entered the day virtually tied with San Antonio for the top seed in the conference, but Johnson wasn’t about to anoint the Lakers as the team to beat in the West.

“That remains to be seen,” Johnson added. “Once you have a chance to get to the Finals or have a serious run in the playoffs I think that’s going to really raise it. I think right now it’s just everybody is optimistic about their chances, but nobody has really had a chance to see what their team can do this year in the postseason.”

Ironically, the impact Gasol has had on the Lakers sounds a lot like Kidd’s on the Mavericks. Los Angeles has won 12 of 14 games since adding Gasol, a natural power forward starting at center with Andrew Bynum out.

“Now they’re a so much better passing team,” Johnson explained. “[Gasol is] a phenomenal passer, high basketball IQ, can finish in the paint, can shoot it. He was the best player on his team [in Memphis] and now coming over here obviously he’s not the best player, but to have that type of weapon come over has been very good. You can see it in the results.”

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