Don’t underestimate the mental aspect of basketball, and if we’re being fair, the entire Lakers squad and not just Gasol, had issues with coming to the court mentally focused 100-percent of the time throughout the season and most notably in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Gasol, he took most of the brunt of Laker fans’ anger. His 13.1 point average on 42-percent shooting was just too minuscule a stat line for fans who booed him mercilessly at Staples Center during the series with Dallas. For the guy who had been a big part of the reason why the Lakers hoisted up championship banners 15 and 16, Gasol deserved better than a chorus of jeers from the peanut gallery.
If the Lakers extended off-season doesn’t enable fans to get over the Lakers’ early playoff exit, if anything it may help heal Gasol’s ailing bravado.
That is of course assuming there was ever anything wrong to begin with. In the meantime, what we’re seeing from Gasol’s game on the international stage is the same old thing that elevated the Lakers to championship status in 2009 and 2010 — fundamentally sound basketball.
Twenty-nine points against Poland, 20 against Portugal, 21 versus Great Britain, 17 against Lithuania, 19 points and seven rebounds in a victory against Germany featuring Dirk Nowitzki and most recently 26 points versus Serbia on 82-percent shooting.
So what does this all mean for Gasol’s production for the Lakers next season? Not a thing. Different players, different rules, whole different ball game when it comes to the NBA, but at least Gasol is gaining confidence and hopefully this will help him find some kind of mental clarity to start the regular season. The Lakers are going to need him if they plan on continuing to be a Western Conference contender. This can serve is a small stepping stone in his recovery from the Lakers failed 2011 championship run.
The only way Gasol’s quest to inflate his ego can be derailed is if he gets injured during the tournament. He suffered a mild ankle sprain and sat out a game, just as a precaution. According to reports, the ankle is doing just fine and if that wasn’t enough to ease the minds of Laker fans, he did tweet a picture of his ankle soaked in an ice bath while holding a thumbs up sign. It’s no MRI, but we can’t blame Gasol for lacking the social media prowess of Arian Foster.
Everyone has their own plans to stay conditioned during the off-season and hopefully temporary lockout period. Kobe Bryant makes surprise appearances at pro-am pickup games. Derek Fisher’s trying to ensure we all get our basketball fix next season. Metta World Peace (wait, is that official?) puts on his dancing shoes. Luke Walton’s working on his three-point shooting while assisting the Memphis Tigers coaching staff. Lamar Odom is keeping quiet and everyone else falls somewhere in between.
For Gasol, participating in the Eurobasket tournament should boost his confidence as well as keep him in basketball shape and fans should see a reminder of the player we all know Gasol to be.
It’s a win-win.