Is It Fair To Doubt Pau Gasol?

Darius Soriano —  January 31, 2011

Wearing a Lakers’ jersey invites scrutiny. The team has produced many great players, but none have been immune to being second guessed at some point in their careers. Ask Kobe the “ballhog”. Or Magic after he “choked away” the ’84 Finals. Kareem and Shaq also received their fair share of blame for Lakers defeats during their tenure with the team. It’s just how it goes.

Today, it’s Pau Gasol’s turn.

To be clear, no one can diminish the impact that Gasol has had in turning the Lakers from playoff team to to championship contender. Before his acquisition (as Bynum took a leap in his development), the Lakers were making strides in becoming a challenger to be reckoned with, but his arrival advanced the team’s cause instantaneously. Three championship round appearances and back to back titles speak for themselves and no one can argue the vital role he played in the Lakers achieving those heights.

However, with the Lakers not playing to the level that many fans and pundits would have predicted and Gasol now in his 4th season (if you coun’t 2008 as his 1st) in a Lakers jersey, the questions and outright doubt surrounding him seem as prevalent as they were following the 2008 Finals that showed him not quite ready for championship level basketball. Fans just seem quicker to jump on him and less willing to trust.

So I ask, is that fair?

Looking strictly at Pau’s numbers, you’d be hard pressed to see any real decline in his play. His scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals are all at the levels that he’s provided during his time in L.A. His blocks have nearly doubled since the 2009 season. The only drop you see is in FG% – in the past three seasons he’s gone from 57% to 54% to 52% this year – but that can be (at least) somewhat be explained by the fact that he’s playing more PF and is shooting more jumpshots than in year’s past.

However, when digging deeper and looking closer I think we can all agree that those numbers don’t really tell the entire story. This year, we’ve seen a less consistent Gasol. In December, Pau had nearly as many games where he scored 10 or less points (3) as he did 20 or more (4). In January, if you raise that standard to the number of games he’s scored 13 or less points (6) and compare it to games of 20 or more points (8) you see a similar trend. And while his rebounding numbers have not fluctuated as much, the point still stands: I’m having trouble recalling a time during Pau’s stint as Laker where there’s been as much wonder surrounding what he’ll produce on a given night.

Gasol’s most recent 5 game stretch is a perfect example of this. Against the Mavs, Nuggets, and Jazz here are Pau’s numbers (points/rebounds): 23/5, 19/13, 20/7. However, in the two most recent contests versus the Kings and Celtics, Gasol gave the Lakers 9/11 and 12/7.

In looking at Lakers’ losses, you see a similar trend. In those 15 games that the Lakers trailed at the final buzzer, Gasol has had 13 or less points in 7 of them. Against the top 4 teams (Dallas, Miami, San Antonio, Boston) he’s scored 23, 17, 9, and 12 points respectively. Obviously losing those games involved so many more identifiable issues besides Pau’s play but I point out his numbers just to again show the up and down nature of his play this year.

Look, I’m not here to bash Pau. I know that he’s quickly becoming a whipping boy of sorts for the Lakers’ issues but I don’t think he should be a scapegoat by any means. There’s too much going on with the rest of the team to try and pin all blame to a #16 Lakers jersey.

That said, I think it’s fair to say that the Lakers will need Pau at his peak level of play if they’re to advance as far as they’d hope when the playoffs start. As recently as the beginning of this season Gasol was being touted as the league’s most skilled big man. We haven’t heard that as much lately, and likely for good reason.

But in the end, shouldn’t we trust that he’ll be there when we need him? I mean, in the past two playoff runs he’s been the best big man on the court when facing off against the likes of Nene, Boozer, KG, and Dwight Howard. He’s raised his play to levels that many wondered he could and conjured performances that keyed victories in every playoff round including the Finals. He’s proven tough enough physically and mentally. He surely has earned some benefit of the doubt, has he not? Maybe I’m alone here, but when the going gets tough I think he’ll be ready to give his best. Maybe I’ll be wrong (and with his up and down play, that’s a distinct possibility) but I’m going to give him the chance to prove it.

Darius Soriano

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60 responses to Is It Fair To Doubt Pau Gasol?

  1. There’s enough blame leftover from Sunday’s can to frost an entire cake. Pau deserves his share of icing, but he’s not the only one covered in chocolate right now.

    (At least I hope that’s chocolate — couldn’t be sure based on yesterday’s performance.)

  2. It’s fair to look at all the players and coaches, to see if they are performing as well as they could be.

    Gasol is a good player right now, but not an excellent one, as he was in the past two seasons.

    The Lakers need more from him and Bynum (in some combination), on a consistent basis, to be contenders.

  3. Part if this fall off is on Pau, but part of it is on his teammates not getting him the ball. Often times Pau will enter the forth quarter with 13 or 13 points and then finish with the same amount of points. The Lakers offense in the forth is way too reliant on Kobe. Kobe can keep you in a game by going one on five but he needs to set up his teammates better if he wants to beat elite teams. This isn’t 2006 Pau is an all star, Pamar and Bynum are also really good Kobe taking every shot in the cluch isn’t effective.

  4. When Bynum and kobe were down at the beginning of this year, we got more from lamar odom than pau. Pau had the most rest of all 4 players, yet he’s been the most inconsistent. The success of this team this year will rely more on Pau than ever before, especially if Bynum has any kind of injury. We’ve seen Kobe and Phil Jackson try to motivate Pau in subtle and not so subtle ways. Not much has worked. Unless Artest, Blake and Brown pick up the slack by making outside shots, Pau will have to fight a lot harder than he’s done. And calling Gasol a whipping boy is wayyy off base when this site compared him to a soccer legend, and said that most criticism of Pau comes from “a mixture of xenophobia, racism, and misunderstanding of the European player.”

  5. Last year Gasol dominated KG in the playoffs, but yesterday’s game it was a role reversal. Also, Steve Blake didn’t play a whole lot better than Jordan Farmar would’ve done yesterday.

  6. Flip,
    At the beginning of the year, no player was playing better than Gasol. Not Odom, no one. You’ll find no bigger fan of LO than me, but to start the year Pau was a legitimate MVP candidate putting up 20/12/4 (numbers that only guys like Kareem and young Barkeley have ever put up over the course of a season).

    And when I say “becoming a whipping boy” it’s because Pau, more than any other player is derided for not stepping up or for being soft. (As a side, Kobe’s criticisms often center around “trust” or FGA attempts, which is different than not playing hard or wilting from pressure in any way). So, yeah, I stand by what I wrote.

    Also, what does an old post that we wrote on Gasol have to do with what *others* say about him? I don’t see the connection there.

  7. It’s mind-boggling but it does feel like Gasol have aged 6-7 years basketball wise in a matter of months. It’s almost like 2018 Pau invented a device to replace the 2010-2011 Gasol for some reason those in the present don’t understand yet.

    Watching him getting pushed out of position again while making a basketball move that looked like I set my DVR to one-half speed, I was damn near expecting Gasol to utter “Oh boy” like it was the beginning of a quantum leap episode.

    Maybe your next leap will be your leap home, Gasol….

  8. #7. Archon,
    Total win for the Quantum Leap reference. Ha!

  9. The reason why the Lakers aren’t winning is the same reason they are not showing concern. Their pride and faith in their talent. This team is so talented that we allow teams to push us out of what we are trying to do as a team because we have the talent to overcome. The only problem with that is that it results in inconsistent effort from everyone on the team because they start improvising and taking possesions over instead of staying in the offense. Most teams need someone on the team to step up and take control to win games. The Lakers actually have so much talent that they need to not step up. They need to take a step back and refocus on the little things. Small things like Pau not letting guys push him out from under the basket and settling for the 8 to 12ft. jumpers just becuz he knows he can make the shot. Or Ron and Fisher being more aggressive. They don’t need to shoot more but driving to the rim on occasion just to make the defense react can open up all sorts of lanes. The reason why Pau is the key to us winning isn’t his ability to score as much as his ability to move the defense. When he allows ppl to push him out of the paint he closes the spacing for perimeter guys, allowing their defenders to double off of them more effectively without having to worry about getting back out to the outside shooters. That was the difference in Ron’s game through the previous set of games. Pau and Bynum were getting good position down low allowing Ron more time on his outside shots and a lane to the basket if guys over committed.

    Another thing that has come from our pride and confidence in our talent is that we as a team have not adjusted to the league as they have adjusted to the Lakers. Used to be a team was lucky if they had a defender that could even try to stick Kobe. Now every team has one person if not two ppl to throw at KB24 on any given night. So they double less or double more effectively while playing more aggressive defense as they rotate guys on Kobe. Bringing in another decent offensive threat a guy to average a respectable 10pts. a game wit the ability to pull in more if left unchecked would take away this two man shift watch that so many teams out on Kobe every night. And would do wonders for us against teams that have use one of those shift defenders elsewhere on the floor.

  10. I think Pau should get a whole lot of the blame he’s not my whipping boy so to speak and my problem with him is not offensive it’s defensive! Lack of offensive rebounding not getting back on D letting no name or lesser named players get his numbers and the whining to the refs really touches a nerve! He needs to just man up and play ball and if he wants the ball DEMAND it!

  11. I agree Pau is not playing to his level.
    I love Pau and I believe he will change this bad trend. He will raise his play to the level he had in the start of the season.
    Of course he has my admiration and the benefit of the doubt. The whole team should have those. They are two time champions.
    Of course we should criticize the team when they play poorly. But we should never forget they are our team, no bashing no insulting.
    Feel proud of the team since they deserve that, and support them in the bad times.

  12. I wrote about this on here three months ago but many people wanted to blame Kobe for shooting too much.

    Let’s all think of this realistically, when was the last time a team won a title without a dominant big in the post? Jordan and the Bulls. Ever since then it has gone from Duncan/Robinson, to Shaq, to KG to Pau. You CANNOT win a title in this league nowadays without a dominant big. It’s just the facts.

    Now with that being said what has changed mostly from this Lakers team from previous years till now? Pau’s play. I do not want to place blame on the guy primarily but I have to. The Center is the most important player on the floor, he erases mistakes by any guards on defense, he is the defensive anchor, the ball must run through his hands (when he earns positioning), and he controls the boards. There is no player more important, some would say a PG but Steve Nash has never won a title because he never had a dominant big man.

    With all that being said, go back and look through every box score since the Lakers lost in Denver several months ago. He shot 3-17 and was muscled all over the floor. The next big game that stood out was the loss to Indiana where he was lost all over the floor letting Roy Hibbert score on him at will as well as looking uninterested on the offensive side. Pau for several months now (since November) has regressed to a player he hasn’t been since before he came to the Lakers. He really has been subpar especially against teams with true quality big men. This team NEEDS Pau to play like he is capable of, I said it before and I will say it again, his poor play has been the biggest reason for the Lakers slippage (all while Lamar has been playing maybe his best basketball of his career).

    People said getting Bynum back would fix everything but quite frankly he is an added bonus, the past 3 title runs the Lakers never really had Drew to use. It was all Pau and Lamar, and they were capable of doing it on their own. Yes the league has gotten better overall, but Pau should not be struggling as much as he has been because he has shown he is capable of being the guy.

    Everyone has faults on this team, but let’s all just be honest Pau is the player with the most issues on this team right now (other than Artest, but you can’t compare the two because we don’t expect much from him). In order for this team to return to their typical play Pau has to wake up and find his manhood, or else the Lakers have no shot at winning a title. I would argue inserting Lamar into the starting lineup and giving Bynum more touches (maybe a few games of rest for Pau) would help this team astronomically, of course we need these games to be against bad teams not the elite ones. This team still can be the best in the West, but it won’t happen without Pau.

  13. Pau never struck me as a Kobe, KG (the “nutcracker”) or Durant type of player who lives and breathes basketball 24/7. He’s a very intellectual and well-balanced guy who is into opera and brain surgery. He’ll probably have an AWESOME post-NBA life. So, after 3 consecutive Finals appearances, 2 championships, and hitting that seminal 30th year of life, could it be as simple as this: he just isn’t THAT interested in hoops anymore.

    Get popped in the back by Perkins when posting, he probably has Pavorotti playing in his head. Miss a crucial jump shot, he reminisces about how he will be a doctor in five years. Hoops has opened so many doors for him; perhaps he’s peering through these openings and seeing an aspect of life that has eluded him the past 20 year grind known as competitive basketball.

    That’s who he is. Probably an awesome guy to meet and chat with at a coffee shop at Harvard or something, but I’m not so sure his devotion to the game is the same as it used to be. He is the epitome of someone who plays basketball for a living, but is not defined by it.

    I can come to appreciate Gasol’s approach to life, but dammit, while he is a Laker, we expect more!

  14. 13. Kevin Ding alluded to this idea in his recent article. I do not think he will respond until the media barrages him with questions of his “soft” title again.

    I think in Peter Vescey’s article he mentions Kobe cussing Pau out for being too nice in practice. He is just a real nice guy all the time. I remember Kevin Ding also tweeting during playoffs last year how Kobe bumped into him and just walked on without saying sorry focused on the game ahead, but Pau also bumped him (same day) and took time to apologize.

    These are great qualities for a human being, but bball player I wish he had more of a killer instinct .

  15. #9- I do not think the Lakers are a team that can win with talent. Ron Artest, Luke Walton, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown play heavy rotation minutes for the Lakers. These are not overly-talented players. And the Lakers are not the Heat, where they have such dynamic playmakers that an overall lack of talent doesn’t show itself too often (yet).

    What has to be asked by the front office is: Are the Lakers, as constituted, a championship team. Based on the evidence this year, the answer is no. The next question becomes, can the re-introduction of Matt Barnes (and to a lesser extent Ratliff) along with the proverbial “switch” the Lakers turn on in the Spring, make them good enough to win it all. I am not so sure that is a yes either.

    Gasol is getting heavy criticism and most is unfair. However, it must be considered whether Pau, after all the international and playoff games, is physically declining. I would say his biggest issue is a decision making one- too slow with the ball on the block, too hesistant to pop the open j. Why would a players decision making in the tri get worse in year 4 than it was in year 1??

    As far as the biggest concern of the Lakers-it is found in our 3 man position. Artest and Walton are so unathletic it is not fair to Kobe. The Lakers will have to rely on Barnes providing what they need at the 3, and kick themselves (and Ariza’s agent) for knowing Ron is stuck here 3+ years while Trevor is heading into his athletic prime.

    Im just concerned we stand pat ala ’03 and this year we wont be blaming Samaki, so someone else is gonna bear the brunt

  16. This is ridiculous. We are talking about basketball and this has become such a bad habbit or people to start bringing in all of these external issues like toughness and trust of teammates. The bottom line is the way the Lakers are playing is not well. Their defense is not working and their offense is not working. There are a lot of things that need to happen but most of this falls on Kobe. It is his job to be the leader and do what is necessary for the team to win. From a basketball standpoint this team looked its best when he was hurt last year and they won 4 in a row IN portland, utah, and almost won against boston without kobe. When the ball moves consistently and the lakers run the triangle they are unbeatable. period. Kobe knows how to run the offense but how many times have you seen him set a screen or defer? even if another teammate has it going kobe will still take shots. This takes people out of their game. They are unmotivated to play defense as a result. In the beginning of the year we ran the ball through gasol and he was an MVP candidate to most analysts. Now…..???? This is about one thing Kobe realizing that he is playing a career low in minutes and that when he is on the court he needs to dominate the ball in order to get his scoring numbers. It’s about being the most important person on the court and demanding the ball. Kobe will break route and literally run up to a teammate with his hands out asking for the ball that is not how you play basketball. This is about kobe’s ego and being the man on this team. If he really wanted to save his knees he would average about 8 assts a game and only 15-20ppg and let his teammates grow. That is the issue on this team and nothing else. Kobe needs to run the damn triangle and be a part of it. THAT team will be unstoppable.

  17. Its alright guys, its not that big of a deal, it still was a regular season game. Few things i did notice were that Pau’s jumpshot needs a little bit more arc. Our overall team spacing was not that great either and it makes it hard for post players to play. For example, Pau posted up and rondo came from baseline and pau basically ran into him and dribbled the ball off his feet. Teams are not just defending pau one way, they’re throwing out multiple ways to defend him to confuse him and its working. We (lakers) need to just take our time on offense and not get discouraged when we dont score on a post up opportunity. We are still a championship contender, nobody said it was going to be a cake walk. Teams have geared up their talent to beat the Lakers, lets see how we respond. As long as we finish the regular season off strong, im not worried and neither should you.

  18. Darius,
    Do you think Lakers should make a trade? Really, it is panic time for Lakers fans. Perhaps a trade for some veteran, semi-all star who is more motivated to win a championship, and can keep up with Kobe’s drive. Antwan Jamison? There are so many teams out of play-off hopes with one or two strong players looking to rebuild and unload salary. The only problem is Lakers don’t have much assets (picks or young talent) to offer. What is your take?

  19. There is nothing wrong with the Lakers. This team has the 2nd most talent in the NBA behind the Heat and as long as they stay healthy will be in the Finals come June. I would be worried if Kobe hasn’t looked so young and athletic this season. We have one of the best records in the league and the 2nd best record in the West.

    With a limping Bynum and Artest the Lakers were still up by 7 points in the third quarter before they both had to be benched and treated for injuries. When they exited the Celtics went on a huge run to take a big lead. Gasol and Lamar aren’t soft… They don’t have big muscles though…. Which is why Artest and Bynum (the only muscle on the team) are so important.

  20. And also to even start thinking about blaming Pau is ridiculous your talking about a guy who was a legitimate MVP canidate in the beginning of the year…. cmon people. Put things in perspective. Kobe hogs the ball and wants all the credit and his game is not allowing anyone to get going period. We have the best front court in the game and yes they shot horribly yesterday but combined kobe had more shots then all three? how is this possible? Kobe coming down and just shooting threes circa2006 should never happen on this team it’s going to piss his teammates off and its not fun to play with someone like that on national t.v. there are human aspects to consider here too. Kobe is not a good teammate and after so long you would think that would change that he would say hey tonight we are going to get andrew 20 points atleast. tonight I’m going to get 10 assists. Nope, he just wants to be the man on every posession and it hurts the lakers more then helps them. This team could be so lethal if they played basketball the right way. if they just ran the triangle. Gasol is the type of guy who doesn’t care about his numbers, same with LO, but Kobe does and that’s the single most important issue here. but its hard for that to be main stream news because he is untouchable in laker land. But look at last year’s finals. Kobe shot horribly and played horribly but he came up with 15 rebounds. he contributed in a way where he wasn’t scoring and he needs to look to do this more often. This is a very good team we just need to move the ball and consistently run the triangle you cannot gaurd that offense its impossibe. Answer this for me please!!!! ….why is Andrew bynum in the game if he is just going to set screens for kobe at the three point line? why don’t you put joe smith in who can probably set screens better then bynum and actually make a 15 footer? we don’t use your talent we don’t maximize our strength on the court and I’m sorry but that falls on your leader. Kobe is unwilling to accept that some nights he doesn’t need to be the most important player on the court and that’s a huge character flaw. It needs to be addressed and he needs to learn that that is the next step in his evolution as a great player. For example. If kobe averaged 20 ppg and 10 assists over the next 3 years and the lakers won 2 more rings. He wouldn’t be the most lethal offensive player on the court, but he is still the most important and the ten assists are crucial AND its better for his body not to try to take over the offense all the time. He just won’t look at it that way he wants to be the man on every play and as a true basketball, laker, and kobe fan its very very frustrating and I don’t even enjoy watching my team play. Even when they win, I don’t enjoy it except games like the one vs. the Thunder…..which coincidentally kobe only had about 15 pts. The answer is obvious kobe needs to allow his teammates to have some fun and grow as players. Shannon brown averaged 20 points about those 5 games kobe was hurt last year and the team went 4-1. Pau was an mvp canidate in the beginning of the year but then kobe came back and changed the whole style of play to cater to his scoring. The excuses that teammates are not up for it or don’t giv ehim help is ridiculous this is a group that took you to the finals 3 straight years and artest saved the lakers, I think everyone on that court should have kobe’s respect and he should never demean anyone or call them out. He needs to be a better person. Lets give Artest the ball in the post, Lamar the ball in the post, lets set some screens for eachother and move without the ball. this is all very simple but I feel like Kobe just doesn’t want to concede that he doesn’t need to score 25ppg to win with this team. I feel like he sacrifices wins for numbers at the time. This team is too good for this. With all this being said. the two most important games of the year. In San Antonion and against Boston yesterday the lakers were winning both games at half time by 4-5 pts so I don’t think its time to panic its just time to grow as a person for kobe

  21. #18. Let me preface my reply with I am not inviting trade speculation into this thread.

    Okay. Now that I’ve said that. No, I don’t think the Lakers need to make a trade. To a certain extent, I agree with Aaron (19). The Lakers still have plenty of talent, but it needs to be utilized effectively. This team has not been playing to its potential and that means a sum that isn’t equal to the whole of its parts (it’s less). That won’t get it done.

    I didn’t mention this in the recap because nothing could be done about it, but the Lakers missed Barnes yesterday. He could have surely helped some with Pierce and maybe allowed Kobe to stay at SG where he could have still matched up with Rondo. Maybe that allows him to conserve energy while also allowing Phil to stick with a regular rotation rather than playing Fisher/Blake together to “match up” with Allen/Rondo.

    Coming back from that tangent, the Lakers have plenty of quality depth, but what they need is the team to start playing like a team more often and do so on both sides of the ball. In the first half, no one could have convinced me that the C’s game wouldn’t have been close at the end and I would have favored the Lakers to pull it out. But as they got further and further away from playing team ball on both O and D, they lost the lead and the defecit ballooned. The Lakers don’t need different players, they need the ones they have to play up to their potential and together as a unit.

  22. Pau is our #2 player. After Kobe, he gets the most attention/cheers/criticism.

    That’s just how it is. Frankly, I agree with the observation that they are not a championship caliber team right now. We have their history, but they have lost too many ‘big’ games this year to consider them near the top of the pole. That is deservedly reserved for San Antonio, Boston, Miami, and Orlando. At least 3 of them are in the east.

    Can the Lakers turn it up one more time? I sure hope so. However, I am worried. We are tired from 3 trips to the finals; we are seemingly tired of the triangle; we don’t have our defensive focus. These are real concerns.

    As fans, all we can do is sit back and watch, but boy is it frustrating.

    Since we all want to identify the magic bullet, this week we focus on Pau. He should come in for some real criticism, but this is a team thing, not an individual thing. For that reason I fear the Phil Jackson may be moving into retirement mode a little early – a common human condition. I guess that is my person to focus on; but he is the 4th highest paid person on this team so I think he should come in for some of the criticism.

  23. #20. You’re falling too easily into the “Kobe’s a ballhog” meme. That talk has some merit, but only some of the time (and, truthfully, not too often). That’s the easy fallback argument for anytime the Lakers don’t perform well.

    Honestly, why let other players off the hook for not moving off the ball? Why let them get away with standing around, not setting good screens, or just watching as one guy tries to attack the defense? Why do fans consistently make it seem like you *have* to allow Kobe to just do his thing without interjecting yourself into the contest to make a difference? It’s lazy evaluation to rely on that as the main argument.

    Yesterday, Phil said that he “didn’t think anyone else wanted the ball”. That’s pretty much what I saw too. Players need to engage themselves just as much – more even – than Kobe needs to drag them along. This team plays best when everyone is on the same page. I’d argue that others leave the page just as often as Kobe does so.

  24. because Kobe’s attitude and decision making is what drives the team I’m actually arguing for his importance. But when he plays that way its like playing at the local rec center with the guy who never passes. It makes you lazy, not want to play D or anything. Then when you finally get the ball in 5 trips down and you might miss..that effort or that spacing or that shot is under a microscope. There should never be a time when Kobe needs to play that way. period. Pau has proven what he can do when he gets the touchest he doesn’t need to prove more. Bynum played hurt last years finals. Artest saved the lakers in game 7. Kobe’s teammates don’t need to be brought along they are solid character guys. I’m not falling into the ball hog category but show me the last time the lakers made 6 quick passes swung the ball from side to side and got good shots for a 10 minute stretch. If Phil or Kobe don’t like Pau’s position/effort/decisions then call a time out and correct it. If Andrew is not establishing position then tell him or let him mess it up and then tell him. You need to let players play. Why would Andrew Bynum be in tune with the game when all he is doing is running up to the three point line and setting screens for kobe. Do you think Fisher appreciates it when Kobe runs up to him at half court and just demands with both arms out to give him the ball? who does that? jordan didn’t do that…. I’m not panicking because I think that if this team plays the right way they can walk into any building and win. BUT a lot of that falls on Kobe. You can’t tell me Kobe iso for 6-7 straight plays regardless of the situation is ever healthy for a team. If someone is not playing hard enough then take them out and put in someone else…. kobe should never take more then 20 shots a game and should averaged atleast 7 assists on THIS team. But he wants to be the man on every play and that is what is hurting the lakers and its impact is bigger then you think. I refuse to believe the Celtics are better in ANY way. They just play more for eachother….the last time I remember kobe ever setting a screen for someone was for shannon brown and that’s honestly a rare thing where you even had the announcers amazed. Play basketball move the ball cut hard set screens come off screens swing the ball. Fisher/Pau/odom/Artest/Blake are not selfish players but its very hard to get into a rythm in this game when you have the pressure of knowing if you miss a shot or don’t get out of Kobe’s way you won’t get another one for 5 minutes. It’s ridiculous Kobe has no right to take 6-7 shots in a row at ANY point in ANY game anymore. this isn’t 2005. The lakers make the game harder then it needs to be and there have been these amazing moments of brilliance from this team…3rd quarter of game 5-end of denver series in 2009 through game 2 of the finals vs Orlando. This is about Kobe just being the man and the most important player on the court at all times and its getting ridiculous. have you seen him run up to people with his arms out? he’s even making it harder on himself he’s not even trying to be a decoy or trick the defense. This is bad basketball. On national t.v. I can tell you that as his teammate I wouldn’t want to play either and he needs to man up and realize that. He doesn’t need to motivate anyone or take over games anymore this team has been to 3 straight finals. No one needs to prove themself to kobe anymore. Kobe just needs to start playing basketball consistently. We beat the thunder and play great team ball kobe has what….15 pts? at the time considered our best win? what happened? Kobe might go a game or two and try to pass but then worries about his ppg and starts shooting again. It’s going to disengage his teammates and its a big team. It’s about chemistry and I can tell you the lakers have none because no one plays for eachother.

  25. I really think that Shannon and Blake’s shooting woes have been the true source of our struggles. With both those guys shooting poorly, we have no variation to our offense when the bench guys come in, so teams are able to just pound on Gasol and Odom/Bynum while letting Shannon and Blake miss on threes.

    I think both of them have a confidence issue. Steve Blake looked marvelous in the early season when he was pushing the ball in transition and really attacking the basket hard. Now he’s holding the ball on offense, hesitating on his passes, and not even thinking about attacking the rim.

    Similarly, Shannon had so much confidence in his jumpshot up through mid-December (perhaps even some overconfidence). You can see that his shooting form has no flow to it like it did in the beginning of the season. The best comparison is Sasha in early 08-09. Had the magic touch early, but completely lost it somehow. Shannon needs to regain his confidence and stroke his shot cleanly.

    I think everything else (Pau’s softness, Kobe’s selfishness, Ron’s suckiness, Bynum’s knees) will either sort themselves out, always be an issue, or have to be left up to fate. But Shannon and Steve have correctable issues that will need their active attention. Once those guys pick up their game, our team will have much better balance on offense, taking a lot of the load off our bigs.

  26. Quite honestly, the only team that can beat the Lakers is the Lakers. I think that their combination of talent and unity is unmatched in the league and they can be as good as they want to be.

    It worries, but even more, annoys me, to see such a lackadaisical team, this year. I can’t stand seeing them play so badly against the Kings, the Bucks, the Pacers, all these teams that they should be taking behind the woodshed and pummeling. They are playing a dangerous game if they think they can take this game so lightly and win a championship. Other teams are hungrier than the Lakers and that annoys me.

    I would say that Pau can tend to be a bit passive and this criticism of him is fair. I wish he would DEMAND the ball and I didn’t see him going strong to the basket in the 3rd quarter against the Celtics and consequently, as Mark Jackson said, quite accurately in announcing, Kobe said, I’m taking this over. I don’t blame him. I like Pau and I’m really not worried about him. I wish he would be more aggressive and I think he will be. But he came up massively short on Sunday and let’s be honest: he’s our number two offensive threat. He performed terribly. Kobe is an offensive machine and if you don’t demand the damn ball, Kobe will take the game over.

  27. I find it interesting, and a bit exasperating, that so many of the fans and very knowledge commentators on this site are so concerned.

    It is January.

    This incarnation of the Lakers has players who, in the last 3+ years, have been to:

    Three straight NBA Finals.
    The Olympics Gold Medal Game.
    The World Championships.
    The European Championships.

    It has a coach and front office that has seen more Championships than any other team in our generation.

    It has, arguably, the greatest player of all time on it’s roster.

    It’s guard duo has 5 Championship Rings, each.

    This team is built, specifically, for the Playoffs. They really only care in the most casual ways about the regular season. It has been shown, time and time again.

    And it has yet to matter.

    They win in the Playoffs. This Lakers team would have beaten the Celtic’s in 2008, if only Bynum had been healthy. And, even in that painful defeat, they learned.

    The sky can only fall in January if someone is injured. Nothing else matters to this team. Some things would be nice, such as quality minutes for the newcomers and rookies, but for the most part the Lakers look at the regular season as one long practice session.

    Wake me when the Playoffs begin.

  28. In case it hasn’t been mentioned, Andrew missed practice with a sore LEFT knee.

  29. Darius

    To me this is one of the most spot on, well written articles you’ve ever written. I know that I am quick to see little quirks in players and rant like a spoiled child. I have never played the game at any level besides high school so I don’t know the level of pressure it takes to be a pro. But what I do see is that something is wrong with Pau. Whether it’s physical or emotional (like Phil suggested in December) he has tallied off conspicuously. He has no emotion out there. It’s like he’s brooding about something that isn’t basketball related. He seems unhappy even in victory. Whatever the case may be, he needs to change it for us to have a chance. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone who we could have. I just want him to man up.

  30. One single example from the game Friday night. Sacramento targeted Gasol all night with Landry, Dalembert and Cousins, and Pau obligingly let them go where they wanted and get passes unmolested (its just Sacto, after all). But late in the game, the Lakers closed a 20 point deficit to 6, the game was tense, the crowd wild and the game on the line. Cousin went deep in the post and Gasol just stood behind him, passively. Chuck Person lost his mind like I’ve never seen a Jax assistant, he jumped up and started screaming and pointing until Paul bodied up Cousins and 1/2 denied.

    That stuff doesn’t come natural to Pau– aggression, defense, always compete.
    Someone else has to force him to summon something to care about defense, to do something in the post against tough, nasty defenders (Landry, Okafor) other than stand straight up looking to pass or kick out, to respond to physical aggression with agression, not passivity.

    I’m not a hater, I agree with DY @ 13. Pau is a great person and his relative disinterest in basketball is not a sin or reason to question his value as a human. Webber was similar. Kobe, Jordan, Tiger have the drive I want for all the Lakers, but aren’t that likeable.

  31. #7 Archon –
    The Quantum Leap analogy is perfect. There’s so many ways to examine Pau’s recent play, many of which are wisely explored in this thread. When it comes down to it however, stats not withstanding, he’s just not the same player. Something has changed and you’re right – he looks like he’s aged overnight.

  32. darius, just some questions from a maximus ignoramus:

    1. has the triangle reduced the play of some of our players like seemingly-perfect fits like blake? has this reduced or to be fair, misplaced what could be high-ceiling players that could have been thrived in another system like a push-the-ball scheme? an example is my wonder of why we don’t use pick and rolls (lest i have no seen enough laker games) enough.

    2. which begs the question, have we been really playing real good triangle lately? i could only imagine stepping in and dominating when he sees that triangle is in shambles or not working rather than him deciding to take over the triangle in the first place.

    thanks! Go LAKERS!

  33. Only you Darius could write an X’s and O’s Post on Gasol like this, a very good interesting read indeed, without any bias one way or another, you just laid it all out as it is. Remember the days of all of the off-the-ball movement with LO and Gasol dishing it to each other for the easy layup/dunk, that seems to have gone away for some reason. I have to agree with Zephid that we do not space the floor anymore, and it is hurting/destroying the Triangle Offense. Teams just let our guards chuck up J’s, that normally just miss anyway and pack the paint. I am not sure what to say about the Lakers defense, but anyway, we are very fortunate to have Pau Gasol on the Lakers, that is for sure.

  34. forgive errors in my grammar.

    btw, yikes on bynum and sore leg

  35. I don’t ever blame anything on one player. Basketball is a team game, and you win as a team, you lose as a team. Kobe went for 10 straight shots because the Lakers could not work the offense against the C’s defense. He did what he had to do. Pau will always have a tougher time against more physical big men like Davis. Unfortuntely, even though I know this team can play better, I still don’t think it will be good enough to beat some of these powers of the league. I think many fans in here still underestimate the elite of the league, but overestimate the Lakers. Getting blown away 4 times from the elite of the league means something, and if it wa up to me, I would gun for a trade at this point.

  36. #32. Tough to say what’s really *wrong* with Blake. All year (save for the first couple of weeks of the season) I’ve been asking for him to be more aggressive and it just hasn’t happened. He’s a good shooter but isn’t taking enough shots either within or outside the flow of the offense. I understand that his minutes are down. And while the sample/attempts are small, he’s taking his fewest number of shots at the rim since his rookie year and a whoping 75% of his shots at the rim are assisted! That’s an amazing number for a point guard considering that most PG’s drive and create their shots for themselves. Really, he just seems to defer too much. I’ve said this several times this year but he needs a bit more Fisher in him (that quality where he’ll just ignore other guys and take his own shot).

    As for your 2nd question, no the Lakers aren’t running the Triangle that well right now. But that’s not new as they’ve gone in and out of executing their sets well all year. Just a week ago they were going into the post more, screening harder, cutting with better timing, and scoring very well. But against the Kings and the C’s not so much. But to be fair, the offense will *always* look worse when players aren’t making shots. That’s why Zephid’s point (#25) has a lot of merit.

  37. Btw… Props to me… I was the only one on this site or on ABC that noticed Bynum had a slight limp in the first half. That’s how closely I watch the game of basketball… Nothing gets by me. When a players gate changes in any way I’m on it ;)

  38. #37. Not to burst your bubble, but the ABC crew mentioned it (also, I’m not the spelling police, but I think you mean gait). They said that he was getting his left knee taped on the bench. When he came back in, he had it wrapped in white tape right under the kneecap. Not like they made a big deal out of it, so I can see why you didn’t hear them. I didn’t mention it in the recap, though. We’ll see if it’s an issue in the next few days.

  39. Chis Y,

    It’s a cop out to say it’s Kobe’s fault that everybody is blowing their defensive assignments and not playing with any energy on either end of court. It’s the NBA. Pau, Odom, and the rest are not scrubs at the YMCA. These guys are some of the best in the world and get paid millions of dollars to perform. Yes, guys get out of rhythm when one guy is taking every single shot. It past years what you saying would hold weight. But you are off with your assessment of Kobe.

    It’s a difference when guys have bad games, and guys or just disengaged. For example when Pau was struggling and playing 40 minutes a night and was really fatigued, we saw an increase of Kobe/Pau pick and pops. Those plays take pressure of Pau to have to constantly bang down low. Thats just when he was playing bad. But sometimes Pau seems disengaged. There were 3 plays that really stood out to me.

    1. The play when Pau cracked KG’s head open. Kobe pinned KG and another celtic under the basket, Pau had the ball about 8 feet out and hesitated. He then decided to drive, by then KG recovered and it ended up with an ugly shot that hit the top of the backboard. Either took the 8 foot jumper or immediately attacked.

    2. I believe it was the 4th quarter. Ray Allen had the ball in the corner and Pau switched on to him. With the shot clock winding down, Pau allowed him to go baseline and picked up a blocking foul. Pau should’ve immediately shut off the baseline, forced him to the middle of the floor and take a tough contested shot.

    3. Pau had an isolation on the left block against big baby about 6-7 feet out. Pau should’ve either faced up on him hit the jumper of glass, or bumped him one time and shot a hookshot. Instead pau was trying to back bbig baby in. Sorry thats not going to happen. The guys is 300 pounds, wide with a strong base. But he’s only 6’8 so Pau could’ve easily shot the ball over him. Instead he was pushed further out of position and the possession ended in him taking a contested fade-away.

    we can even go back to the kings game when he kept getting school by dalembert with the same exact play.

    Those were very dumb plays. Pau’s bball IQ is way to high for him to not be able to immediately understand whats going on and make the right play. It’s normally second nature for Pau. But right now those type of plays aren’t. He’s just not making quick reads and it’s leading to bad shots and bad defense. And when Kobe sees that type of effort and those type of plays, he’s not going to pass plain and simple.

    Right now its all mental with Pau. He’s just really out of a groove and its affecting his level of play on both ends of the court. That’s why the soft labels are making a comeback. Sometimes he is mentally soft. We don’t expect Pau to match Perkins’ strength and physicality, but instead he has to match it with his superior skills and his superior iq. I expect him to snap back into it. But somebody might want to give Pau a wake up call.

    As far as Shannon/Blake, Shannon is too aggressive and Blake is too passive. Their mentalities are completely different. But it isn’t completely a bad thing. It can work really well. However, Shannon has to do a better job of knowing when the shot isn’t there and move the ball. Blake has to stop deferring to shannon and others so much when he has a good shot.

  40. Apparently Mitch has speculated he could make a move before the deadline. I’m not sure we could acquire the necessary piece/pieces for a title without blowing this unit up. We are locked in to this roster, and I feel if they can get up and perform consistently, we will have a good chance for the three-peat.

  41. I think Mitch mentioned pondering a trade in hopes it’ll have the Eddie Jones effect. Jones would have stretches of underperforming, then some trade chatter pops, then Jones would start playing like an all start.

    So I wouldn’t read too much into right now. But if we here some trade chatter Feb. 11, I would expect somebody to be shipped out. Just look at the schedule between now and then and you’ll see what i’m talking about.

  42. Game 7 was a toss up until the last few seconds. It doesn’t take away anything from being two time world champs, but it should highlight that there wasn’t much difference between those green morons and us. Both teams made adjustments in the off season, so a game like Sunday is an indicator of where they stand. If you believe Peter Vecsey and David Friedman Kobe and Phil are not at all thrilled with pau. You can’t (and should not) trade the guy, but considering that even Phil was buying into the idea of him being an early MVP candidate (a weak but commendable psychological ploy to encourage gasoft to carry the team until Kobe and Bynum were back) Pau needs to do something different to be a more consistent force on the floor. Maybe he needs to spend a little more time on the bench? And the criticism here reminds me of what people said about Lamar when he disappeared, or when people gnashed their teeth about fish. Those concerns were justified and those two guys proved the naysayers to be wrong. Your turn pau.

  43. Henry Abbott’s post today on truehoop is worthy of consideration. He may be onto something.

    It can be deadly for a basketball team to be predictable, and aren’t our heroes exactly that recently?

  44. By the way Darius (@21) have you replaced the “wait’ll Bynum gets back” refrain with a “wait’ll Barnes gets back” mantra?

    Just wondering. In a teasing sort of way.

  45. 42 – A bad loss to the Spurs this week could make Mitch’s trade talk more than a motivational ploy. The main takeaway I got from the comment is maybe management is really doubting this particular group can get it done. That Spurs game could be pivotal for this Laker team.

  46. Reign on Parades January 31, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Stats with little/no context Part II:

    We are 6-9 when Gasol scores 15 or less.

    The disturbing thing is that it’s happened 15 times.

    Gasol’s recent play is most distressing to me because unlike Kobe I’m not sure his legacy is fully secure yet. I don’t want him to go down as a second banana who couldn’t win a playoff game without Kobe. I don’t want him to go into the HOF with extra emphasis on his international achievements or because the HOF’s standards are relatively low in general. I don’t want him to be the Lakers’ best PF ever by default.

    Earlier in the season I thought he raised his caliber to just a notch below prime Tim Duncan, which is high praise indeed. Right now I’m not sure whether he’ll be more impactful than Andrew or Lamar on a given night, although some of that has to do with how consistently good Andrew and Lamar have been.

  47. #45. You just ruined my post for tomorrow. Thanks a bunch. ;)

  48. On a more serious note, the post that R mentions (#44) is worth the read. I know Henry makes his point about Kobe in the clutch (again – and promises more on the subject later) but the concept of the Lakers going isolation a bunch is an interesting one.

    The counter to that (and something I meant to email to Henry) is the Lakers often end up in isolation even when running their standard Triangle sets. Often times Kobe ends up iso’d at the elbow or Pau in mid-post or Odom at the top of the circle with the option to swing the ball or drive hard when the ball is swung back to the top. The beauty of the Triangle is that it’s consistently giving players options to either shoot, pass, or drive when the ball ends up in different key spots on the floor. Where the Lakers seem to get hung up a bunch (and it’s been this way for a couple of seasons now) is that they often run the Triangle with a predetermined outcome in mind rather than reading and reacting to the defense. (As an aside, I know that folks will try to find someone to blame for that. I watch this team as closely as anyone else and I don’t think there is anyone to blame. Not the coaches nor the players. It’s not even the biggest problem. It’s just something I notice every now and again.)

  49. Anti-Abbott-Dwyer February 1, 2011 at 1:32 am

    @Chrisy,

    Sorry too much hatred against one being has blinded you,sad.

  50. The team has taken on the character of the players on the floor. The demeanors of Pau, Blake and now Ron are all this “Laissez-faire”, “Com se com sa” (the European terms are for Pau), whatever attitudes. The “It’s only the regular season” mantra is killing these guys. Urgency is a must because everyone else sees your weakness. A weakness seen can and will be exploited. True everyone plays up to a champion, but it’s the champion’s job to quell that confidence and reinstill the fear that the they are far superior and will not be defeated.

    Barnes will help, but hopefully this takes place before Odom goes back into his shell (which I don’t think will happen because he seems to have grown out of it but you never know, look at Pau). Then the Lakers really will be in trouble.

  51. Maybe Kobe needs to sit a week or two with an “injury” to see what this team is made of?

  52. Or maybe Pau does… long time FBG.

  53. 42, Oh man, if that’s true, I hope we lose by 30. Let’s stir s*** up! We haven’t had some good, solid trade speculation for like, 4 months now (good, solid, being the key words here, saying “DoOds, we gots tah trade Bynum for Lebron, Wade, and Bosh!!!!!!!!!!! Mitch do this!!!!!!!!!” does not count as good or solid).

    I’m going to love hearing all the speculation about what we can get in return for Luke Walton or Ron Artest (hint: nothing). Or whether we can still get that Chris Paul for Bynum trade (that ship has sailed, if it ever was in port). Or how we have to trade Kobe because he’s killing the team.

    Maybe it’s because I haven’t watched all the games like I usually do, or because the team has sucked so bad in stretches, but I just don’t have as much interest in this team (especially in the regular season) as I usually do. Trade talk will cure that ill! Time to fire up the ESPN Trade Machine and go to town.

  54. In my opinion, when the Lakers’ offensive goes down the crapper in the 2nd half of these games, they should try some pick and roll with Kobe and Pau. Pau seems to want to score around defenders rather than through or over them lately. Putting hiim on the move should help facilitate that. Plus it will force him to make plays. It seems lately he gets the ball and holds it for way too long before doing anything with it. Off the roll he can either attack the basket of pass it over the top to a Bynum or Lamar.

    On defense everybody needs to pull their heads out. The C-words hit a lot of shots on Sunday but way too many of them were either layups of uncontested jumpers.

    Don’t look past Houston.

  55. Full-disclosure–Guilty of being one of the more-vociferous Pau-bashers of late. Bad enough to get moderated after the loss to the C’s. (Deserved to get moderated, by the way).

    Through the last 3 years, other than the 2008 debacle, Pau has been one of our most-consistent players (if not THE most-consistent player).

    He is NOT consistent now, however. And his inconsistency is ONE of the Lakes’ many problems.

    I’m not so much retracting my prior bashing, as much as acknowledging that I need to admit when I’m wrong—and I was wrong—Pau isn’t playing well now, and it is hurting the team, but that doesn’t mean the team is screwed. Pau, maybe more than anyone else, does deserve some benefit of the doubt. I’m going to go back to hoping he gets it together before April.

  56. Duncan couldn’t win back to back championship. Gasol is the best European player i’ve ever seen. Kupchack did not know what he is doing (Sasha for Joe Smith,…). Let’s wait one more year, when Brian Shaw becomes Lakers coach,if team don’t play well,we will talk about trade.

  57. It is a fact that the lakers have looked terrible against the “elite” teams and only good against the rest of the league this year. But let’s not forget what the roster looked like last year. I think most would agree that overall we have better depth than last year. I do think this team needs to show a sense of urgency very soon or else a shakeup is warranted.

    All I am going to say about trades is that there are some players out there that are available and could help us if we are willing to part w/ one of our core pieces. I am not sure any of these trades make us better in the long run but I think we all realize the lakers’ window is closing so making a trade does make some sense.

  58. I’m not a kobe hater. Kobe is the greatest player in the world, I respect him and I even think he is better then Jordan in most ways but we are talking about Pau getting the blame here and that is just ridiculous. You have to be honest about what you are seeing. The lakers have to run the triangle and they rarely do it consistently anymore. Kobe bryant is playing a career low in minutes other then his rookie year. He is averaging 25 ppg a game in those minutes so that shows you he is dominating the ball. Pau Gasol is highly regarded as the most skilled big man in the game and you can’t argue the change he has brought to LA. 3 trips to the finals. He is NOT the problem. You can’t sit there and defend Kobe’s game when he has 0 assists. And its a common theme. I agree that Pau can be passive. But you can just as easily run the offense through him. You can throw the ball into Andrew 10 straight plays and he is either going to get fouled/score 9/10 these things are proven. From a basketball standpoint the Lakers don’t make the right play 90% of the time. You have Ron Artest shooting threes, Kobe taking 50 shots a game, Pau being asked to be shaq, Bynum asked to be Kendrick perkins and just set screens for Kobe everywhere, we are not utilizing our players the way we should. Artest is not a three point shooter, Pau is not a bruiser. We don’t make an extra pass and that starts with Kobe I’m sorry. He is the greatest talent in the play but greatness means making the right BASKETBALL play at all times. And if you want to talk about the defensive end, kobe is the biggest culprit when it comes to roaming and not sticking to his shooters. That’s why players like xavier henry has breakout games against the lakers and it throws everything out of balance. The lakers problems start in the locker room it has nothing to do with basketball. Pau Gasol is not the problem his career averages are right where they’ve always been. But I challenge you to go look at how many games we win when kobe takes 25 or more shots….so regardless of whether Pau is playing well or Andrew is beasting in the post we know what DOESN’T work and that’s kobe iso ing…taking his teammates out of a rythm and taking really hard shots. I actually was encouraged that it seemed like he could score at will and i think Boston losing tony allen is going to be big because they have no one to gaurd kobe. For example, in the Spurs game earlier in the year kobe cam eout and just took the first 30 shots of the game for the lakers and that’s not basketball….as a teammate you don’t feel like you are even playing just watching and that makes you lazy and disinterested and Pau has always been passively asking for a more team oriented throw the ball in the post game. Our strength is in our size and we don’t use it. Kobe doesn’t understand that he can still be the most important player on the court and doesn’t necessarily need to score 30 (I’m sure he does understand but I know he’d rather stay at 25ppg a game). This has been kobe’s greatest criticism and he refuses to address it. On this team there is honestly no excuse for Kobe NOT to average 7 assists per game. Now Darius would you argue that? Do you honestly believe kobe needs to average 25ppg for this team to win? if you say yes. And that’s on kobe because I know he can average 10 assists a game if he really wanted to and maybe he needs to start being more of a facilitator and giving his teammates the ball a little more in areas where they can be affective. Poor Artest is shooting 3 pts like he’s ray allen. that’s just not his game and we expect it from him. What if Kobe sets a screen for someone?….and he rolls? And something that needs to be discussed in regards to Pau is that he is getting A LOT of attention in the post….teams have figured out ways to gaurd him and they are definately playing him differently and its the coaching staff’s job to come up with a plan. If you are asking me who gets the blame its Phil Jackson and Kobe before its Pau Gasol. He was averaging more points then Kobe was….. the offense was running through him in the beginning of the year and the lakers were doing fine. This is an internal chemistry issue and a little malaise and has NOTHING to do with basketball.

  59. Archon – in case you’re still checking this thread, your Quantum Leap is in my new post, haha. http://tinyurl.com/5r8rcj6