Lakers Need the Real Pau Gasol to Finally Stand Up

Pau Gasol was the Lakers’ savior when he first arrived in 2008. He was the highly skilled, highly intelligent forward/center who would eventually help lift the Lakers back to the promise land.

He fit right into Phil Jackson and Tex Winter’s triangle offense, and seamlessly fit right into the team overall.

There was some disappointment by the whole team in 2008 when they lost to the Boston Celtics, but Gasol, for the most part, played well.

However, with a full training camp and season under his belt, Gasol was the Robin to Kobe’s Batman in the 2009 playoffs. With Andrew Bynum limited because of a bad knee, Gasol was the problem that no team had an answer for. In crunch time, it was the two-man game between Kobe and Pau that teams could not contain. Then, in the Finals, Gasol stepped up physically and virtually shut down the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard. Gasol was more popular than ever as he was the missing piece between Bryant and his fourth ring. In the playoffs that season, he averaged 18.3 points (on 58 percent shooting from the field), 9.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 blocks in 40 minutes of play.

Then, in 2010, Pau Gasol emerged as yet an even more important piece in the playoffs. He increased his level of play once again in the playoffs and averaged 19.6 points (on 54 percent shooting), 11.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.1 blocks in 40 minutes of play. Additionally, he was able to fight back against the Celtics team that bullied him just two years before and earned himself a second championship ring; giving Bryant his fifth.

2011 was a disaster, however, as the Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks. Nobody was truly to blame as Kobe was basically hopping around on one knee (and averaging just 23 points per game in the playoffs), Metta World Peace didn’t have quite the impact he had the previous year, Lamar Odom couldn’t match his regular season success, and the rest of the role players simply couldn’t match up against the Mavericks’. Andrew Bynum was the one Laker who stepped up his level of play in the playoffs.

However, Gasol’s production also took a huge hit as he was averaging just 13 points and 7.8 rebounds. He attributed his poor production to personal problems, and he took much of the blame from fans, and apparently from the front office as well.

We’ll just chalk the 2011 playoffs up to a bad overall season, and too much drama surrounding the Lakers. At some point in time, players will get tired of each other and lose the chemistry that once brought them together.

Throughout regular seasons, however, Gasol had been arguably the most consistent up until that point.

At the beginning of this year (the 2012 season, obviously), there was no shortage of drama. As we all know, the Lakers traded Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom away for Chris Paul, but David Stern vetoed the trade. Lamar Odom was traded upon request, and Pau Gasol was left to wonder about his future in Los Angeles.

The bright spot for the Lakers was Andrew Bynum’s clean bill of health and emergence. Bynum achieved career highs of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds and earned his first appearance in the All-Star game. This left Pau Gasol to be the Lakers’ third scoring option, and he became increasingly inconsistent likely because of his uncertain future. Another factor likely contributing to Gasol’s diminished role and effectiveness was the new offensive system implemented by new head coach Mike Brown.

We knew that once the trade deadline passed however, that if he were still here in Los Angeles, he would play much better, and he did.

I personally lauded Gasol towards the end of the season around the time when he notched a triple-double for being probably the only big man in the game today capable of getting 10-plus assists in a game in many of my “Breakdown” articles. I stated how underrated of a player he was, especially in the current season, and how much of Bynum’s success can be attributed to Gasol’s unselfishness.

Even in the first round of the playoffs, when he started out the very first game against the Denver Nuggets by nearly putting up a triple-double with 13 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists behind Andrew Bynum’s remarkable triple-double on the same night, I noted how much of an impact Gasol had on the entire team. In the same article, however, I stated how at some point in time Andrew Bynum would be faced with double-teams and defenses that he had not yet learned to counter, and that it would be Gasol’s turn to step up and take over from there. I stated that although Bynum was having a great year, Pau Gasol was still the more skilled player overall and would be called upon in crunch time situations and have to deliver because he’s been there before and knows how to be successful.

This, however, has not happened. Gasol has maintained his role as the overly unselfish third option. Bryant has averaged 28.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.7 while Bynum has averaged 17.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks. Gasol has averaged just 12.4 (on just 44% shooting) points, 8.9 rebounds, and 3.8 assists and 2.0 blocks.

Next Page: What’s Happening Now & What Must Happen

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