The return of Pau Gasol, to me, was like going to see a really hyped-up movie, and then the movie actually being really good. I sat down with my soda, popcorn, and watermelon Sour Patch Kids, totally prepared to be disappointed. Little did I know that Pau would capture my attention early with a superb first quarter, scoring 10 of the first 13 Laker points, then carry us through the game to the tune of 24 silky smooth points and 13 rebounds. A few preliminary Gasol points:
- As expected, Pau improved our defensive rebounding, limiting Chicago to 10 offensive rebounds on 46 missed shots. While not spectacular, there was definitely a noticeable improvement during the game, especially against one of the better offensive rebounding players this season (Noah).
- Curiously, Andrew Bynum seemed to become an even blacker-hole than he already is (0 assists, tons of forced shots). When he catches the ball, it seems as if the only thing Bynum is looking at is the rim; there were numerous times when Odom or Gasol were open near the basket or a kickout was available to Bynum, but he just didn’t see them.
- I didn’t really like Kobe’s play when he wasn’t in the low-post. He had only 5 shots within 10 feet of the basket, going back to the mid-range jump shots that we all love and hate. Worse was that the offense just stopped moving whenever Bryant caught the ball on the wing or in the pinch post. He would turn and face his man, take a couple of jab steps, then usually launch a semi-contested jump shot. No ball-movement, no player movement, just Live by the Kobe, Die by the Kobe.
- Lakers shot just 6-19 from three last night, led in their futility by Kobe (0-2), Shannon (0-2), Sasha (0-3), and Jordan (0-2). It’s kinda sad when your frontcourt (Artest 2-4, Odom 2-4) doubles the amount of made threes by your backcourt (Fisher 2-2). If Gasol is going to draw double teams and kick out for threes, the Lakers have to start making them.
No question that Gasol makes the Lakers a much, much better team. While Gasol’s return hides some of the Lakers numerous mistakes, he also tends to magnify some of their outstanding flaws: Bynum needs to work on his vision and passing out of the post, Kobe needs to move better off the ball and stop holding the ball on the wing, and the Lakers as a whole really need to work on their three-point shooting. Maybe Kobe needs to recover the shooting regimen he gave to Ariza and take his own advice.