We’re all still waiting for the Pau Gasol of the past to reappear. That Pau played with a chip on his shoulder thanks to all that “soft” talk. That Pau was decisive. That Pau was dominant. That Pau went missing at some point last season and we haven’t seen him since.
There were plenty of excuses for Gasol’s falloff ranging from exhaustion to heartbreak.
Whatever the real reason there wasn’t too much talk of injury being the issue.
That is not the case early in this season. So far Pau has been good but not great. It wasn’t until yesterday in Denver that he notched his first 20 and 10 effort of the season. Some of the early struggles can be attributed adjusting to a new offense and new teammates. However some is already being chalked up to his bad shoulder.
Gasol sprained his right shoulder in the Christmas opener against the Bulls. Since then he’s been wearing a sleeve for protection but beyond that he’s pretty much taking the Kobe Bryant approach to handling injury.
“You’ve just got to go through it and suck it up and just hope that one day it gets better somehow.”
Not exactly the most scientific or sensible approach but what are the other options?
The real concern is what the long term outlook is for the Spaniard this season. If Gasol’s shoulder is the reason we have yet to see his game on full display then the prospects going forward aren’t very good. I’d say we could be looking at a revisit of last season’s late collapse.
So far Gasol isn’t being held back at all by Mike Brown. Pau’s minutes remain unchanged regardless of his injury issues. Will his body wear out trying to endure the rigors of this hectic schedule?
Only time will reveal the answer to that question.
Unfortunately the Lakers don’t have much time to waste this season. That championship window reveals a little less of the view inside every day. Gasol is already being dangled as trade bait so a declining performance combined with a nagging injury could hurt his value on the market as far as guys like Mitch Kupchak are concerned.
To be fair Pau is playing well enough through the pain. The problem is even with Andrew Bynum back we still saw all of the Lakers’ shortcomings during the fugly loss in Denver. Quite simply put this team is going to need meaningful contributions from all their heavy hitters every night.
So all that brings us back to the original question: Can Pau Gasol shoulder the load this season?
The immediate answer is that he’s trying to. For now that, like Pau’s game, will have to be good enough.