There is no question that Pau Gasol had a lackluster and overall disappointing post-season this year. In the first round, Gasol was overpowered by the New Orleans’ Hornets Carl Landry and then couldn’t keep up with the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki. Whether his playoff performance was caused by personal, off the court issues or not, Lakers fans hold the team to a higher standard, and rightfully so. Getting swept in the second round was a shock and unacceptable. Some Lakers fans want Gasol out of Los Angeles due to his recent poor performance. Some fans know he can bounce back and play like his usual consistent self.
When Gasol recently announced his intentions to play for his home country of Spain in this summer’s European Championship, some liked the idea and some did not. Gasol has always kept Spain close to his heart during his decade in the NBA. However, the main negative regarding his playing for Spain this summer is the possibility of injury. Disregarding this season’s playoffs, ever since he began wearing purple and gold the Lakers have had incredible success when Gasol is healthy and on the court. Therefore, if he was to be injured in any capacity during his time in Europe, it could hurt the Lakers in the upcoming season of rebuilding.
However, there are a few positives that could benefit both Gasol and the Lakers from his summer play. First, if an NBA lockout indeed occurs, playing with Spain will allow Gasol to experience the full competition of the actual game, not just practice. Practice and weight lifting can only do so much for a professional basketball player. That is why several players have said they would go to China or Europe to play if there is a lockout. True conditioning stems from true competition. Battling for a championship may be just what Pau needs to regain his edge.
Second, the idea of reaffirming his Spanish roots by representing the country may enable Gasol to reestablish his commitment and competitive drive for the game. This could be the way for Gasol to forget what happened in the playoffs and come back to the Lakers refreshed and ready to go. This is what happened to Kobe Bryant in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. After coming off a disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics in the Finals, Bryant was forced to forget what happened that June and focus soley on the task at hand, which was winning gold as a team and reclaiming the USA’s reputation in international basketball. Bryant returned to the Lakers with a new outlook and a gold medal.
I have a feeling that Gasol won’t be on the trading block this summer. Therefore, as Lakers fans, all we can hope for is that Gasol finds a way to clear his mind and grow from this experience. After all, he has been an integral part of the past two championships the Lakers have claimed. Playing for Spain seems to have more pros than cons for Gasol. It might be just what he needs and what the Lakers need as well to move forward.