Playing in Europe Beneficial to Pau Gasol and Lakers

Written by: Brian Bernstein

Los Angeles Lakers’ All-Star power forward Pau Gasol is keeping busy during this long and bleak NBA lockout. He is currently playing for his home country, Spain, as the defending champions look to protect their title in the 2011 EuroBasket tournament.

During Spain’s impressive win against the tournament’s host, Lithuania, Pau produced 17 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Despite a sub-par shooting performance, going 7-15, Pau added two 3-pointers, making him 3-4 from downtown in just four games. This should not be shocking to Laker fans as they are aware that Gasol’s range in the NBA stretches out to about 20 feet, and the 3-point distance in European leagues is roughly 21 feet.

Gasol’s deep range shooting is an exciting feature to witness as this makes him a much bigger threat on the court. He is already a skilled big man playing with his back to the basket and having the ability to drive to the hoop, a very unusual talent and skill for a 7-foot forward/center to have. These two factors already make Pau difficult to guard, but adding a shooting range that stretches out to 20 feet makes him even more dangerous.

Gasol seemed to lose confidence in his outside shooting last year in the later part of the season that carried over into the playoffs for the Lakers. Seeing him shoot with confidence in the Eurobasket league shows promising habits that ultimately should carry over back into the NBA. When he consistently knocks down his outside shot, it forces the defender to put pressure on Pau, thus allowing him to use his ability to drive to the basket.

Pau Gasol is turning in solid numbers for Spain, averaging 21 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. His rebounding numbers are down because he is battling for the boards with teammates Marc Gasol, his brother and starting center for the Memphis Grizzlies, and Segre Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder starting center.

It was not all praise and glory for the power forward as he sustained a minor ankle sprain during pool play. Spain coach Sergio Scariolo explained that Gasol was receiving treatment from the doctors and will be re-examined before the start of round two. Despite sitting out of Monday’s victory against Turkey, he was listed as day to day but is expected to play in the second round of EuroBasket starting Wednesday.

After sitting out Monday’s game against Turkey, Pau returned to action Wednesday against Dirk Nowitzki and team Germany. Pau played 33 minutes grabbing seven rebounds and 19 points in Spain’s 77-68 victory. However, his most impressive game of the tournament was on Friday. Pau played only 23 minutes, shooting 9-11 from the floor and 1-1 from behind the arc; he is now an astonishing 5-6 from 3-point distance, finishing the game with 26 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Pau Gasol’s decision to play overseas this summer has proven to be very promising for him and Laker fans all over. While the NBA is still dealing with its lockout, organized play outside of NBA operations is critical for players to stay in shape and remain fundamentally sound. With Pau in Spain, not only is he able to continue playing competitive ball, he is also gaining confidence in his play.

Unlike star player Kobe Bryant, who could use the rest, Gasol playing is a good thing. Pau is susceptible to injury as proven by the latest, although minor, ankle sprain. But if the NBA lockout ends sooner than expected, Pau will be capable of returning to the Los Angeles Lakers without losing a step, and possibly gaining one.

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