marc-gasol-2.jpg
USATSI

Marc Gasol wasn't happy when the Los Angeles Lakers signed Andre Drummond to replace him as their starting center. He declined to speak to the media for multiple games after the move, and when he did address it, he called it "a tough pill to swallow." Gasol left money on the table to join the Lakers. He's a future Hall of Famer, a former NBA champion that had come off the bench only 15 times prior to this season. His hesitance to shift into such a role on a permanent basis was understandable. Prior to injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers were thriving with Gasol as their starter. 

And in the past three games, Gasol has played some of his best basketball of the season in Drummond's absence. The Lakers have won two of those games, and Gasol has averaged 9.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 blocks in that span. That led one reporter to ask Lakers coach Frank Vogel whether or not Gasol had re-earned his place in the starting lineup. Vogel confirmed that the job now belongs to Drummond. 

"No, we're going to start Andre. That's what we signed him here for," Vogel said. "We need to get [Drummond] a ton of minutes to get him acclimated to our system with only X amount of games before the playoffs, and he'll be our starter. ... [Gasol's performance] doesn't change that."

Considering his prior comments, Gasol could be forgiven for being a bit disappointed with the decision. In truth, it's quite the opposite. Gasol sounded far more comfortable with a reserve role on Tuesday, and confirmed that he will remain with the Lakers for the rest of the season after a wave of buyout speculation followed his comments last week. 

"I'll stay ready. I'm going to tell you this: I'm fully committed to the team. I'll stay ready when my number is called," Gasol said. "I understand we have to get Andre acclimated to what we're trying to do. We have to get back our two main guys -- Bron and A.D. whenever they come back -- and they have to get that group going and get some chemistry going with the first unit for them. I'll be ready no matter what happens. No matter if it's five minutes, 10 minutes, if it's whatever position. If it's some nights, I might not play. But I'll stay ready, no matter what. I made that commitment.

"It's been a process for me to reassess this situation a little bit, but like I said, I'm fully committed to this team. So, whatever is thrown at me, I'll be ready."

Vogel has been adamant that the Lakers will need Drummond, Gasol and Montrezl Harrell to win a championship, and has hinted at creative ways of deploying the trio down the stretch. The Lakers haven't used a single lineup featuring both Gasol and Harrell this season, but with Drummond set to return in the near future, that is a look Vogel will likely try. In the end, all three centers are likely going to have to sacrifice minutes and touches depending on matchups in the postseason. In that sense, all three are likely to be needed at various points.

But eventually, math is going to overwhelm this frontcourt. Drummond is a two-time All-Star used to playing 30 minutes per game. Harrell is a defending Sixth Man of the Year averaging 25 this season. Gasol, even at his advanced age, warrants around 20. When Davis starts playing center in the postseason, the other three are going to be fighting for scraps. There are going to be games when at least one and maybe two of them don't see the floor at all. 

If the Lakers are going to win the championship, all three of their centers need to be OK with that possibility and ready when their number is called. Gasol faced that possibility when the Lakers signed Drummond, and now, he's onboard to do whatever it takes to help them hang banner No. 18.