Gasol Delivers a Blunder, Will it be His Last?

Okay, so after having Pau Gasol in Los Angeles for a little over three years now we should be able to recognize a few of his quirks.

Prefers to not get muscled-out around the rim. Check. Will settle for an outside shot if it means not having to get mauled by a defender. Check. Frequently bleeds. Check.

Maybe it’s time to add, doesn’t like the Sunday, 12:30 pm start time.

I suppose this is the part where I’d take the time to harp on the “soft” label he was bestowed with, make several legitimate claims as to why he hasn’t quite shed it and then quickly try to cover-up all his discrepancies with a highlight of his 2010 finals, game seven performance against Boston.

No, I won’t do that. I’ll leave the accusations and judgments on Gasol’s physicality, or lack thereof, to Amar’e Stoudemire, Kendrick Perkins and the like. Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant can do the clean-up duties on Gasol’s reputation, although after his lack-luster performance against the New Orleans Hornets Sunday afternoon, Gasol would be hard pressed to hear even his most loyal supporters defend him.

Instead it’s time to face the facts.

Gasol doesn’t like to be physical and guess what, he doesn’t have to be. Three years and two championship parades later, the Lakers’ coaching staff isn’t going to ask Gasol to change his approach. They’re perfectly content with Gasol being the brains to Andrew Bynum’s brawn.

When the defense gets rough, Gasol has a tendency to back off and work around the bullying from his opponents. Some nights it works, but then there’s the rare occasion it doesn’t. We’ve seen Gasol play physical—if you want to label it as such, but if he avoids elbows and jabs in-and-around the paint he can’t afford to also mentally check-out of the game. If he insists on relying on intellect and finesse as opposed to brute strength, then he needs to out-maneuver and out-smart his opponents, something that he didn’t do Sunday against the Hornets.

“I was just not very sharp,” Gasol said. “I couldn’t get into a good rhythm in the first quarter. I didn’t get myself going at all, so it’s up to me to get some energy out there and be a little more aggressive, and find ways to find that rhythm.”

Next: Gasol’s stat line tells the tale of a half-hazard Sunday effort

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