After spending last season hampered with hamstring-related injuries, Lakers forward Pau Gasol took the summer off, instead choosing to sit in on spinal surgery, watch his countrymen win the World Cup in South Africa and take trips to India and Ethiopia, among other things.
It wasn’t until a few weeks prior to the start of training camp that Gasol engaged in a competitive one-on-one game against fellow Spaniard, his younger brother, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.
Not to say that Marc didn’t put in his best effort to get older brother Pau in tip-top, regular season shape, but considering Pau’s uncharacteristic preseason numbers—averaging 17 points on 46.5 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds—perhaps what Pau really needed was a couple of side-jabs from Lakers head coach Phil Jackson.
“I think that [Pau is] kind of easing himself into this year, I haven’t seen that spark,” Jackson told the media just prior to the start of the regular season. “He’s not quite as efficient as usual. Pau’s a 55-54 percent shooter and he hasn’t been at those numbers yet. We do hope that he finds that.”
For Pau, three victories into the regular season, due in large part to his contributing an average of 25.3 points on 52.5 percent shooting, 10.3 rebounds and five assists, one Western Conference Player of the Week award and a big fat zero in the Lakers’ loss column later, the jabs keep coming.
Except this time, Jackson referenced one of the players the Lakers had to give up in acquiring the 7-foot forward, the aforementioned Marc who Pau will have to face later on tonight as the undefeated reigning champions take on the Grizzlies.
“A lot of times we say we traded the wrong guy and tell him that Marc is a tougher, more powerful player than he is,” Jackson quipped after Monday’s practice. “[Marc] doesn’t have the shooting touch yet, but his defense, his rebounding is very good. He gets a kick out of playing against Pau. He’s actually a little more physical than Pau is. I like to bring it to [Pau’s] awareness.”
For the record, it’s no skin of Pau’s back. If anything, at least it’s an improvement from Jackson’s preseason comments about him “still being on vacation.”
“I don’t think he believes that, but obviously he’s always picking,” said Pau. “He’s always trying to have a good time, and we have fun playing around with each other.”