With the eyes of an entire continent watching, now is not the time for Pau Gasol to play like he did against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Playoffs. No matter how much Gasol downplays it you know he’s out to prove something. Maybe he feels he’s got nothing to prove to the fans. But he most definitely has something to prove to himself.
Gasol’s epic playoff fail was as uncharacteristic as finding Tim Tebow doing blow with Derek Fisher. Never mind those off-court rumors. Gasol has been around the game too long to know what happens on the court is all that counts.
Currently Pau is playing with his native countrymen in the European Championships. After sitting out the loss against Turkey due to a “minor ankle injury” Gasol is reported to be ready to play against Germany.
For the Lakers this news has got to be a mixed bag.
On the one hand, the natural concern relates to Gasol’s health. No telling what the future of the NBA will be. No matter that nasty topic the last thing Laker fans and management alike want to see is Gasol gutting it out on a bad wheel.
On the other hand, seeing Gasol rise to the challenge of settling a score with Nowtizki is very welcome.
Pau needs to rediscover both his game and his competitive drive. You just can’t go from being on top of the world to buried in its armpit and not endure some sort of psychological effect.
Much like riding a bike, whenever you fall the best thing is go get right back on it and try again. Pau needs to conquer this demon. We all saw how Gasol bounced back after being bullied by the Celtics. Now he’s got to do the same against Dirk.
Gasol is not the same player as Dirk. Despite his significant athletic prowess, Gasol is a step slower than his German counterpart. But that doesn’t mean Gasol can’t take it to Nowtizki in the post where he has a clear advantage.
It’s time Pau takes it personal. He can’t put his agenda ahead of his duty to country but he can certainly get a little revenge with a good showing in a win. For Pau the road back to the top of the NBA mountain begins in Europe.