NBA Experience: 9 years
Contract Status: Signed thru 2013-14
2010-11 Averages: 18.7ppg, 10.2rpg, 3.3apg, 1.5bpg, 52% FG, 82% FT
Welcome to superstardom, Pau Gasol!
A lot comes with winning titles for the Lakers. Sure, all that fame, glory and instant celebrity are nice. But never forget with all of the Hollywood adulation come Los Angeles sized expectations. This was the year Gasol got his first real taste of what it’s like to be buried under the weight of lofty expectations. One second you’re an international celebrity, the next you’re rumored to be trade bait for Kevin Love.
Gasol’s regular season began with MVP-caliber play. Then the Spaniard began a downward spiral that finally saw him bottom out when the Lakers needed him most – in the playoffs.
Some attributed Pau’s dwindling performance to all of the minutes he logged early in the season. With Andrew Bynum recovering from knee surgery Gasol was playing big minutes. Next came an injury that effectively ended Theo Ratliff’s season thus making an already thin frontline Angelina Jolie skinny. Instead of adding another big Mitch Kupchak stayed the course and Pau’s legs paid the price.
The only problem with the fatigue argument is that after it was all said and done Gasol logged 37 minutes a night which is consistent with his career average. The other wrinkle in the tired legs debate is that Gasol also took the summer off from international competition. Perhaps all that rest was a bad idea. As of now Gasol plans on playing for his native Spain in the upcoming European championships.
Of course there was also that very public rumor of a very private matter that many speculated was the reason for Pau’s poor playoff performance.
Whatever the case Gasol is a skilled big man with plenty of prime years left. There is no reason why he shouldn’t be dropping 20 and 12 a night in a league that has fewer and fewer low post threats.
The other issue is the on-going saga of Pau’s toughness or lack thereof. There is a very simple way to put that talk to bed – win.
When Gasol went toe-to-toe with the C’s in seven games and emerged as a world champion nobody dared question his toughness. When he couldn’t get a shot off against Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler then saw his team swept out of the playoffs, the soft label reappeared.
Again, this is what comes with superstardom in the NBA. Gasol is never going to be Charles Oakley. For this Laker team he doesn’t have to be. Pau just needs to work on being more decisive in the post. With his quickness and deadly low post arsenal, Pau is unstoppable when he attacks. When Pau postures, pauses and poses he gives the defense time to adjust thus negating the once limitless options he had just seconds previous.
In order for to the Lakers to get back to championship basics they need the Gasol we saw early in the 2010-11 season. That Pau was punishing the opposition with extreme prejudice. Going forward you feel as if his professional pride will push Pau to work harder than ever. He’s still got plenty of miles left on those legs but the championship window grows smaller by the day.