By enlisting in the Eurobasket tournament, Pau Gasol’s hope is that he’ll lead the Spanish National Team to victory, qualifying them for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Turns out Gasol has also been exorcizing some basketball demons in the process.
It’s hard to pin-point exactly what went wrong during the playoffs for Gasol. He started off the season as the team’s most valuable player, fell off slightly, at least in terms of overall consistency, and had a, to put it nicely, less-than-stellar post season. Maybe it was the extra playing time he was incurring as a direct result of Andrew Bynum not being ready to start the 2010-11 season. Maybe it was the extra pressure that was placed upon him as an indirect result of Kobe’s off-season knee surgery.
With Gasol, we all (rather begrudgingly) know where he stands in physicality. He got tossed around from all angles during the playoffs — first by the New Orleans Hornets, then by the Dallas Mavericks and finally by Phil Jackson himself.
You’d be lying to yourself if you thought Gasol was just going to do a 180-degree turn and be a physical aggressor on the court. That’s just not his style of play. The thing that was missing was the one thing that sets him apart from some of the other top tier power forwards in the league. His mental game just wasn’t there. The headiest player in basketball just couldn’t overcome the mental fatigue that had been bogging him down during the playoffs.
That’s what was perhaps most frustrating for Gasol and the Lakers. All the tools and skills were there, but he didn’t look sharp and just wasn’t out-smarting his opponents on offense.