What To Expect With Gasol Back

Kurt —  November 18, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets Game 1 NBA Western Conference finals in Los Angeles
That Handel’s Messiah’s chorus you hear is Lakers fans rejoicing at the return of Pau Gasol, which will happen Thursday night against the Bulls.

It’s easy to say the Lakers will be better with their second best player back — but it’s how they will be better that could fix a lot of the Lakers issues so far this season.

There’s been a lot of focus about Kobe’s newfound post game this year, and how with it he has been a more efficient scorer. First off, that’s not really true —when you count getting to the line and three point shooting, as the true shooting percentage stat does (think of it as points per shot attempt), his numbers are basically the same as last year 55.9% to 56.1%. He is scoring more just because he is shooting more — four more shots and 1.5 more free throws per game. He is taking on more of the offense.

But with the Lakers relying on Kobe in the post, the offense has gotten stagnant. Reed emphasizes that point:

But I feel that we have been looking too hard to get him the ball, recognizing his advantage down there. This has resulted in less effective movement off the ball and cutting, and more standing around and watching Kobe isolate (although isolate in a more effective spot). Having him down there also creates an imbalance, as we lack the same perimeter/slashing/penetrating force that he created. Instead, it’s all post ups and kickouts. That’s not necessarily bad, but I think we could have more balance and flow if Kobe spent more of the game outside when Gasol returns.

Last night against Detroit, it was once again the Kobe show — a show we have seen and needed a lot this early season. But for the Lakers to really get going, they need to return to a balanced offense. With Gasol (and how well he passes) players work hard off the ball, something we have seen little of this season. It’s different than how Kobe has been getting his shots

With Gasol back Kobe will get his shots in a different way, but as Darius explains he can still get to the spots he likes on the floor.

He’ll set up more at the top of the key and the wing. He’ll be forced to take more jumpers and it’s very possible we’ll see an uptick in his 3pt FG attempts. That said, he seems very intent on getting shots closer to the basket so I think Pau’s return will mean that Kobe will likely use the other motions of the offense to still get the shots that he likes at the elbow, mid post, and at the free throw line area. I mean he can still utilize the curl from the weakside to get his middle lane jumper. He can still get to the mid post on the weak side off of the rub cut/hand off after the post man flashes to the elbow and the passer circles off him. And with Pau back, these chances will be more easily executed from a spacing and passing perspective because of Pau’s ability to pass out of the post and draw defenders attention when he’s on the floor.

Bynum has also been a force this early season, and the Lakers can’t go away from him. However, the number of touches he gets likely will drop, and the question becomes how he deals with that. For Bynum, and Kobe, it’s all mental, a point Zephid makes.

We know that both of these are simply mental adjustments by Bynum and Kobe; it’s not as if they’re not physically capable of adjusting to off-ball roles. It’s whether they’re willing to accept the reality that Gasol is simply a better focal point of our offense that will affect whether our offense goes stagnant or not.

Bynum should still be on the block plenty, which means more of Gasol away from the basket, something we saw parts of last year before Bynum was injured. Darius recalls what we saw last year.

We may actually see the expansion to Pau’s game that we anticipated and got glimpses of last season. Remember, when last season started, Pau had just come off the Olympics and he was really flashing his mid range jumpshot. He was making that shot from the baseline and the elbow extended all the way out to 18 feet. Then, Bynum went down and Pau went back to playing Center and playing off of Odom. This lead to Pau spending more time on the block and by the end of the season he did not seem to have the same touch (or confidence) on that shot.

Simply put, the Lakers are 17th in the Association right now in offensive efficiency, a sign not of their talent but the execution of the offense to get the shots they want. The return of Pau should start to return some spacing and movement to the offense that has been lacking. And when that happens, better shots will follow. And when that happens, suddenly we may start to see the Lakers we remember from last season.

Kurt

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57 responses to What To Expect With Gasol Back

  1. Getting Gasol back is like adding two players. We get him and all that he brings – we also get our sixth man of the year candidate back.

    Hoping everyone stays healhty from here on out. I think the only things we really need to fear are injuries and the Bobcats. We can compete with everyone else.

  2. The Bobcats and the Rockets.

  3. and the blazers,
    and the grizzlies on their floor, Bynum should sit it out there.

    also, don’t forget that we also get the bench mob leader back, LO, this will make the easing of the bench players in so much better.

    cool beanz

  4. Judging from Spain’s campaign in the Euro Championships, Pau’s midrange and even long-range game had already come back.

  5. 4 P. Ami, haha yeah, when Gasol was knocking down those three’s in the Euro’s, I was like ‘what?’

  6. Don, you should watch the pre-game footage of Pau shooting threes on Youtube.

  7. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halle— what? We’re not singing? Oh… Ahem.

    Personally, I would not be surprised if the offense runs less smoothly and more confused the first game or so. Last night, for long stretches, the offense looked focused and the guys on the floor worked well together, with both passing and spacing, suggesting the squad has finally adjusted to the new line-up. Pau’s return will throw a temporary wrench in the machinery while the team rea-adjusts back to what the line-up is supposed to be. Once that is done, everything will (hopefully) run smoothly again.

    @NickFoley
    Link to that…?

  8. I agree with Mimsy. Initially there will be an adjustment period of 1-2 games where the offense looks sloppy. But, after that I expect to see the offense running smoothly again.

    Also what hasn’t been mentioned much is that when the Laker offense is running smoothly….the Laker defense improves.

  9. Jay T da Bigga Figga November 18, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    You guys worry too much.

    It’s only the beginning of the season.

    I’m not making an excuse for the Lakers, but as soon as we do get Pau back everything should run smoothly.

    With Pau back, that just puts Lamar back w/ the 2nd unit that can thrive because it gives them versatility on both ends of the floor. Lamar can definitely rebound with the best of them with the 2nd unit lacked the beginning of the season, L.O. being back to the bench should be a plus for the bench, which has been our number one achilles heel this year.

    You guys have way too much analysis and too much say on what to do, remember its only da beginning of the season, We don’t have everybody back and Ron Artest needs to be acclamated in the offense but right now its hard for him because mostly Kobe just cuz he eats first and of course Drew Bynum is taking the load in offense with Pau being out.

    Pau adds another dimension to the Lakers which other teams don’t have.

    So don’t trip take a trip.

  10. Jay T, if you don’t like this kind of analysis this may not be the Lakers site for you.

  11. Jay T touched on another thing that might confuse things and need some more readjustments as well: Lamar’s return to the bench. He’ll have the same effect there as Pau will on the starting line-up. An initial adjustment period of 1-2 games, while they get used to having Lamar with them again. He changes the dynamic on both ends on the floor when he plays. However, they will also get a bit worse before they get better from the change.

    That’s what you meant, right Jay? :)

  12. The Lakers were #1 before the back-to-back losses, without our second best player.. I know it’s only November, and it means nothing but now that Pau is coming back, I’m just so damned… EXCITED. :D

  13. I just want people healthy. I know Pau is testing the hamstring in practice, but nothing replaces game speed. I expect him to be rather tentative until he trusts the hammy, just like Kobe was tentative with the groin. As long as he gets warmed up and into the flow without any reinjury, it should be okay.

    Throw in the acclimation with the team on top of the rust, I expect to see some brutal basketball from the boys in gold. Luckily, Chicago struggles scoring. If D doesn’t completely breakdown, even with stretches of clunky offense, Lakers should be able to score enough.

    Mimsy, thanks for the translation :-)

  14. Don’t get too excited… more injuries will happen… it is a big part of the game. Look around the league and you will see star players out for the next several months all over the place. Pau will come back and another starter will go down eventually. We just have to hope we don’t suffer any serious injuries and of course pray we are healthy in the playoffs. But I will be happy if I get to see Kobe, Artest, Lamar, Pau, and Bynum on the floor together once.

  15. not only will he 2nd unit have LO-It will most likely have either Drew or Pau with them as well. Brown/LO/Powell/Farmar and Pau or Drew. Sounds like a huge upgrade to me.

  16. Aaron can you be more pessimistic?

  17. re:16

    I’m pretty sure he can.

  18. Is home court advantage that big a deal?

    It seems like a negative cycle:
    1. Team is unsure of itself
    2. Must secure HCA
    3. Works too hard in the regular season
    4. Spent in the postseason (or injuries in the regular season)
    5. Thus requires HCA
    6. Next year unsure of itself again

    Problem of course with the other mentality is the ‘switch’ mentality, but that’s when you are cruising while everyone is healthy.

    I really think PJ should value health over HCA, but I guess he’s kinda spoiled having had Kobe – the man will play through everything as if he’s always playing ball for high school, or olympics where it’s more than just a job.

  19. Aaron, I know injuries happen, as does any Laker fan– Forget this one month injury, the last two years Bynum went down for huge chunks of the season.. Nevertheless, I just can’t wait to stop reading about getting out rebounded, and having the second struggle to hold leads. I know that Gasol coming back won’t fix everything — and definitely not right away, but I do really miss the time where our biggest weakness was Fisher on defense. And for the short-term, tomorrow’s game against the Bulls couldn’t come any sooner. =D

  20. Harold, Kobe is like that knight from “The Holy Grail”. You can cut his arms and legs off, and he’d still go out there!

    I like the points that have been touched on above. One thing I’d like to add is that I think Drew will flourish more with Pau back in. More rebounds, easier baskets, more time with the 2nd unit which will mean easier baskets again.

    You think, he’s averaging 20 & 12 playing center by himself (no Pau). What’s he going to do WITH Pau??? How many times did Drew score off easy dunks because Pau got doubled.

    Expect to see more of that kind of stuff and scoring from the block himself. I don’t expect those averages to drop at all…..

  21. WhiteLightnin’ November 18, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Gasol: King of Kings, Lord of Lords!

    I couldn’t get that chorus out of my head for the hour or so before I saw this post. A sign? I think so…

    I too, see a break in period for the team. Ultimately, the team is much better with him, but I think it will take some time to find their stride. I hope PJ tries to limit his minutes in his first few games. There have been times in the past when Phil has said he would limit minutes but then didn’t because he wanted to get a win. I’d rather have a loss than a re-injured Pau, but I also have faith in the coach.

  22. Unrelated, but Wizards are burying the Craboliers right now. Coming back from down 17 to up by 17.

  23. The Wizards are a team capable of beating or losing to any team in the league on any given night. A gambler’s nightmare.

  24. Our rotations will come back to where they should be now, with Gasol back in the mix. There will be an adjustment both on the starters and the bench as was mentioned, but it will work out in a game or two, I imagine without any problems. Two 7 footers back in action together again, this will be nice to see tomorrow. Glad to see Arena’s back to where he used to be in this league. Yeah, this site is about analysis and such, that is why I just love it here.

  25. Dallas looks pretty dangerous this year, despite what they’ve done in the first half tonight.

    I feel a bit sorry for the Spurs. No TP already and then Manu has to leave with a sprained groin.

    Like the Lakers, though, once all those new pieces familiarize themselves with their system and teammates they’ll be ready to roll.

  26. Lmao this is is a must-read, in a different sort of way. Ron Artest’s mind works in strange ways. I’m still trying to figure some parts out…

    –On him throwing Trevor Ariza’s shoe in the stands: “I didn’t know his shoe was gonna come off. I don’t speak to his feet so I don’t know what his feet are thinking, I don’t know what his toes are thinking, I don’t know what he’s thinking. Then his shoe comes off and I’m like okay a shoe is not supposed to be on the basketball court without somebody standing inside of it. So I said alright, I’m just gonna buy me some time. I really didn’t know whose shoe it was, but I said it has to be one of the player’s shoe. As soon as I toss it off the court, not throw into the stands which some people said, it’ll buy me some time. What happens is I come back down, Trevor is trying to put his shoe on and I politely hit a three in his face.”

    “Even when I went to Detroit last year, people were like Ron it’s good to see you back, it’s good to see you back. I was like shut up. Get out of my face. I don’t even like you.
    People could be like hey you know Ron Artest is doing well, now they’re saying Ron Artest is doing better, he’s changed his image. Then I tell that guy, I call him on the phone and I tell him to kiss my ass politely.
    I look at it like this from a deeper standpoint, even Jesus got lynched and how bad of a guy was he? He was a great guy. If it can happen to him, it definitely can happen to me you know. I don’t get upset when people bad mouth me.”

    It’s all gold, I could copy and paste the whole thing, but…well…if anyone wants to read it: http://sportsradiointerviews.com/2009/11/18/ron-artest-on-tossing-ariza%E2%80%99s-shoe-off-the-court-the-other-night-%E2%80%9Cas-soon-as-i-toss-it-off-the-court-it%E2%80%99ll-buy-me-some-time-i-come-back-down-trevor-is-trying-to-put-his-sh/

  27. I’m curious to see whether Phil keeps the 4th quarter crunch time lineup from last season intact (Lamar and Gasol), or if he will close out games with the starters (Gasol and Bynum). My take is that Lamar and Gasol have earned the right to close out games, but I am not so sure how Bynum will handle it.

  28. Snoopy- You made my night! That was the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. I’m gonna read the link now but everything you posted is hilarious!

  29. Anybody see Lebron hurt his left wrist and leave the game? Couldn’t help but think that if that was kobe, and his left hand exploded, with parts of his left arm continuing to explode for the remainder of the game, he’d play the game out.

    Was it 2005 when he injured his right arm and proceeded to shoot his next few jumpshots left handed before the coach recognized it and pulled him? Except I recall that coach being PJ, so that couldn’t be 2005…

  30. Yeah, that Lebron bit was funny. I mean, I don’t believe that the NBA is like the WWF where everything is scripted, but geez, what a coincidence.

    Kobe puts a 40 pt effort with an injury most will definitely sideline anyone with some semblance of sanity (already being contrasted with the ‘soft’ spaniard, not that I have a problem with him resting)…

    Then, boom, you get LeBron, arguably the player that will/is/has replaced Kobe as the best player in the league, ‘injuring’ his hand off a dunk (must have been a ferocious dunk!).

    I mean, if I command a multi-million dollar salary because of my body, then yeah, I’ll be pretty wimpy too, taking every precaution and making everything look more serious than it is, but this being ‘nobody-can-wear-23-if-i-am-not-wearing-23-LeBron,’ this is just too… poetic? ironic? can’t place the right word that describes the feeling that put a smirk on my face. :D

    ps. i decided against ordering ‘when the game was ours’ after some of the reviews (although i didn’t mind :07 or less by MacCallum) and ordered SI’s Basketball Photo book instead (don’t remember title). Anyone read either?

    pps. What I originally intended to order, of course, is the National Geographic DVD set with nearly 120 years worth of magazines in them… when you’re paying for overseas shipping & handling, sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to order as much as you can…

  31. The LeBron dunk was pretty vicious (he was trying to get his team to make a comeback), and he slammed it at a bad angle. I pretty much expected an injury immediately after it happened. Anyone talking smack about that needs to go out and try to do what he did at half-force and then try and not rush to the E.R.

  32. well, eyeGore, I obviously can’t dunk nor can I imagine what kind of force is involved when you’re LeBron’s size and coming ‘down’ on the rim as opposed to trying hard to touch it on the zenith of my jump.

    but when i did punch a concrete wall and broke one of my knuckles, it really wasn’t that bad. i ended up getting a cast a day or two later when the swelling was obviously too big for a ‘bruise,’ but still ;)

    anyway, ‘glad’ that it’s a ‘real’ injury even though it made me look bad, but also can’t be too glad that somebody’s injured…

  33. Pau.

    Class (albeit needing some conditioning).

    Balance (help for Kobe).

    Artest.

    Explode (in a good way).

    Tonight.

  34. eyegore31- Can’t say I’ve ever thrown down before either but back in middle school I would go down to the 8.5ft courts at an elementry schools and we would do a mock slam dunk contest. At the end of the day the higher the bruises were that appeared on my arm, the more viscious the dunks were and like Lebron said, “hitting your funny bone is not so funny.”
    BTW: You guys didn’t really forget that a certain reverse dunk lead to one of our certain star player to having to go to Colorodo to get Surgery on his shouler, did you? Of course not.

  35. Kurt, about the Wizards… tell me about it. I swear I have already lost 15k on 3 separate occasions… good thing 5k here is just like $100 there.

    Gambler’s WORST nightmare. From hereonin, I ain’t betting for or against them no more.

  36. Harold,

    I bought the book. I liked it, even though every other chapter was the celtics winning and Lakers losing. The stories the two tell are awesome and worth the book price. When you read some of them, you realize not only how special they were, but also how special it is to be able to watch Kobe. Laker fans should get the book.

  37. @31

    Isn’t injuring your hand while dunking a basketball a lot like hitting a parked car? In both cases, there’s nobody else to blame.

    At least it didn’t happen while snowboarding.

  38. This “What happens is I come back down, Trevor is trying to put his shoe on and I politely hit a three in his face.””

    Is perhaps the funniest thing I have read in my life. I was really sad to see Trevor go but I’m really starting to love crazy pills.

  39. RE: Lebron’s hand injury… That’s why you don’t do the monstrously powerful dunks unless you have to. Because you hurt yourself, and when you’re Lebron and you hurt yourself, you also hurt your team and your team’s chances of winning. (Something I hope he still cares about.) I’m torn on Shannon Browns’ dunking for that very reason, actually. Yes, they’re spectacular and fun to watch, and he gets the crowd fired up every time, but how long before he lands awkwardly and sprains his ankle?

  40. Most excited about LO off the bench with the 2nd stringers. This means no more (garbage time only) Mbenga + Powell who have trouble defending the pick n roll.

    I still think PJ should keep at least 1 starter + Odom on the floor with the 2nd unit. Morrison, Sasha, & Powell get a little crazy with jacking the deep ball, which causes our O to stagnate.

  41. LeBron was trying to take the air out of the building and send a message to his team – play hard and vicious like this dunk. They were down but not enough to give up, and he wanted the win (the Wizards to Cavs are like the Blazers to Lakers) Either way, he’s had vicious slams before and no injury occurred. It was just a bad angle and the use of the offhand. I’m not sure where all the LeBron hate is coming from, this is a very special player and I enjoy watching him just like I enjoy seeing Kobe.

  42. Mimsy – When you said that, it brought to mind a Brown dunk from a few games ago. I can’t remember who it was against…the Rockets maybe? He thought he had a breakaway and saw the defender coming at the last minute and wiped out. I remember wincing and holding my breath until he got him. I love the dunks, but yeah, there’s always some risk.

  43. Bulls preview will hopefully have some mention of the way Joakim Noah is playing (I speak from stats, haven’t seen him so far this year). But I’ll be the first to admit I labeled him as a bust and at best, Andersen Varejao 2.0, but the numbers indicate he’s having a special year.

  44. I think David Thorpe had a great line about Noah: Energy is a talent.

  45. It’s all in the hair. I bet if we could bribe either Varejao’s or Noah’s girlfriends to shave the hair off their head while they sleep, they wouldn’t play nearly as well… it’s in the long hair.

  46. Mimsy, please explain Sasha last year then. >.>

  47. Explain Sasha? You might as well ask her to explain how string theory works with Einstein’s theories on gravity.

  48. Thank you Kurt. :)

    You’re right that explaining Sasha requires an entirely new paradigm.

  49. By the way, Mimsy, Derrick Rose said he is not cutting his hair until he gets his game back on track.

  50. Well… it worked for Bjorn Borg, didn’t it? :)

  51. Kurt,

    What is the probability that Phil will keep the current 5 and bring Pau into shape slowly off the bench?

  52. Mamula: Phil has already said Pau is starting, Odom will come off the bench. However, Gasol’s minutes should be down a little to start as he plays his way into condition.

    On a completely different topic: A few people have suggested to me my comment at #10 was out of line. I will simply say that the version of comment #9 you see is the edited one without several insults. His problems appears to be not with the content of the post but the style, the level of analysis. To me, that is a large part of what this site is. The Lakers communities on the Web are numerous and varied, this one has its niche and style. Not every one is for everybody. This is not a topic I see up for discussion.

  53. eyegore, it’s not really LeBron hate, per se, but more like LeBron-fawning-media-snicker. I enjoy watching LeBron as much as Cleveland fans, except I really don’t enjoy the media anointing him King when he’s crownless.

    and Kurt, regarding #10, I’m sure there are lots of comments that I don’t see that gets deleted, and perhaps a lot of email too, but it does seem you are a bit edgy regarding some comments that are not really dealing with the NATURE of the site but more about the TONE. I thought #9 was actually along the lines of what you usually preach about not taking early games seriously and not really along the lines of mentioning trades etc that I would expect to be edited and frowned upon…

  54. I’m with Kurt on post 52 and 10. Thats the best thing about this site is the analysis that we wont find anywhere else without talking to phil jackson or the coaches. I don’t expect to speak to phil any time soon. So this sight is really all we laker fans have if we want to read something more than the garbage ESPN puts out. Sorry Kurt, I know this sight is affiliated with espn and truehoop. But hey for every 10 articles, 2 or 3 are worth reading. Most of their stuff is written to simply get comments and stir up controversy(ahem…the B.S. report and where will lebron play next year).

    So keep it going Kurt. But where’s the Bull’s preview?

  55. Ohh nevermind Kurt…I see the bulls preview.

  56. Anti-intellectualism infects the Laker Boards!

    The whole incident just reminds me how great this site is and how lucky we are to have a smart island in the ocean of knuckle-headedness that sports commentary (and fandom) often is.

    I love the K Brothers’ blog and all, but their comments section is just a wasteland. I don’t even bother reading it, while here you might get the equivalent of 5 or 6 posts worth of analysis when reading the comments. I don’t mind Jay T’s antipathy.

  57. @ 52 – Oh WHAT THE ***** EVER!! Kurt, you were absolutely in line with that comment to Jay T. Nothing against J at all, it’s just that what you said was 100% innocuous! Everybody is so ***ing sensitive. The only way to take offense to that is to add your own angry/snarky/sarcastic inflection, which says much more about the readers who thought you were too harsh than it does you. Personally, I read it as a friendly “FYI” to Jay, like, “hey, this is kinda what we do here, just so you know.” To recap, Kurt, you were fine in your comment and anyone who thought otherwise must live their life with kid gloves.