Los Angeles Sports Media Is “Negative” According to Pau Gasol


It was a triumphant and emotionally draining return for Pau Gasol. Six and half seasons after he first arrived, he was being honored.

Applauded and adored, there were two people on the court last night: Pau Gasol the champion and Pau Gasol the man. Unconditionally, he was appreciated for what he achieved in the last of the Lakers glory years: back-to-back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals.

And so there he was, in Chicago red, more like a native son returning home to serenade his people than a visiting player.

He enjoyed the applause, often smiling, clapping and acknowledging the crowd who stood for him in appreciation. It was a rite of passage, a way to let him go. The last time the Lakers showed Pau Gasol such ecstasy was on June 17, 2010, game 7 against the Boston Celtics. Pau had 19 points, 18 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Exhausted once the game was over, he celebrated as hard as he could. Unbeknownst to all, including Pau Gasol, it was his last great Los Angeles moment.

"Mitch Kupcak admitted, “His last three years here, I think he would admit he did not play at the level he could play at. Most of the reason for that had nothing to do with him.”"

January 29, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol (16) moves the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers center Robert Sacre (50) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

But, before Mike D’antoni wrecked his state of mind, Pau Gasol came to Los Angeles in his prime. He was 28 years old. He was barely able to breathe in the Pacific ocean air, that was how excited he was to change addresses from Memphis to Los Angeles. Sensitive to a fault, he had been tortured by the labels of “soft” and “can’t win in the playoffs”.

Instantly, his narrative changed on a dime, though he still has a hard time erasing the “soft” label. A finesse player with an array of talented offensive moves, Gasol was often criticized for the European way he approached the game. But, even his critics agree on his character. A nicer man in the NBA doesn’t exist.

Speaking to the media, Pau Gasol looked back.

"“When things were going well here it was exceptional. Los Angeles and New York are the best cities to win at but they’re two of the toughest cities to lose and struggle because you get so much coverage that media have to create stories and sometimes the bad or negative stories are more attractive. So I felt like there was always a search for something bad or negative to talk about, some drama that was created whether there was some truth to it or not.”"

Clearly wounded by the last four years of Mike Brown and Mike D’antoni, Pau has not forgotten how marginalized he was by coaches who didn’t trust or respect his considerable talents. Many athletes, like Pau (and Dwight Howard) are sensitive to perception and why wouldn’t they be? They are judged on a scale only a perfectionist would admire. When things didn’t go well for Gasol in a game, he would repeatedly say he “tried his best.” It was a soundbite that was funneled into some sort of slur, as if his best wasn’t acceptable. Gasol felt the weight of the criticism as if it were pounds of bricks upon his shoulders. He then became self protective and distrustful. It pushed him out the door.

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In Chicago, he has felt none of that bruising media critique, even though the Bulls have fallen into the middle of the pack defensively, a stark change from the last four years.

"“Chicago so far has been great. Very positive. Even when we had that skid where we lost six out of eight, people were still positive, media was still positive. So I think it’s important. We’re all especially within the same city, we’re a family, we all have to support each other and try to get things right for the best of everyone.”"

None of what he said is untrue. Except the responsibility of the media is to offer insight and critique, not to resemble an athlete’s public relations staff. There is a natural push and pull to this awkward relationship. Often, athletes believe the media is unfair. The media only wants to tell the truth as they perceive it.

His Lakers experience at the end, his D’antoni relationship from beginning to end, made it easy for Pau to leave, to pack up, to go elsewhere. It lifted an incredible burden off of his shoulders.

"“I feel very comfortable”, Gasol said."

He was talking about Chicago. Living there. Playing there. Being as far away from the Lakers as he could get.

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