Can Pau Gasol Find His Groove In Europe?

Darius Soriano —  August 10, 2011

Everyone loves some home cooking, right?

Well, if you don’t, Pau Gasol certainly does. While he may not be playing in his native Spain, he is putting on his national colors to compete in EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania to help his home country qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. And in Spain’s first contest leading up to the tourney, it was Pau that led the way in helping his team down France in yesterday’s “friendly” match up. From the game report:

Spain reminded France they are a very different team when Pau Gasol is in the line-up. Gasol, the EuroBasket 2009 MVP and the player the French couldn’t stop in the teams’ Quarter-Final showdown two years ago that Spain won 86-66, had a game-high 19 points to lead his country to a 77-53 romp over Les Bleus in Almeria on Tuesday. Playing alongside his brother Marc as twin towers in the starting five, the elder Gasol dominated. He skipped last year’s FIBA World Championship to take a well deserved break but has returned to the national side and looked as good as ever as Spain won their first friendly of the summer.

After the game, I asked Sebastian Pruiti of the fantastic NBA Playbook to send over his thoughts on the Lakers’ Gasol from the match with France and he obliged. Below are his brief thoughts:

Gasol looked really confident in his jumper.  He started out playing away from the rim with Ibaka and his brother sharing the inside duties.  As soon as he caught it, if he was open, it was going up.  (He) knocked down two threes in the 1st quarter and a long two with his foot on the line. He was also running the floor well, getting ahead and getting the ball and finishing.  Had 3 or 4 fast break buckets where he beat either Turiaf or Noah down the court just with his speed. As always he was comfortable in the post, drawing fouls and getting the rest of his points from there.

All in all, it was a very solid performance, where Pau Gasol looked extremely comfortable, and that is before you consider how uncomfortable he looked in the post-season with the Lakers. I don’t know if it is the fact he’s like the elder statesmen with that team or if the freedom with the Spanish team is helping, but he looks a hell of a lot better, like the Gasol who started the year with the Lakers (though slightly more outside oriented with Spain).

Based off these observations, it’s very encouraging to hear that Pau is back to playing well against solid competition. Noah and Turiaf are both NBA quality bigs (with Noah being one of the better defensive bigs in the game) and it speaks well about Pau that he was able to run the floor well (check out this clip of him changing ends well and then finishing off a sweet dish from his brother) while also being assertive on offense.

One tidbit that is particularly noteworthy is that Pau was decisive with his offense and looking to score with little thought about what he should do once he made the catch. One area in which Pau struggled towards the end of the season and into the playoffs was his decision making, often seeming unsure of what he wanted to do with the ball after he’d receive a pass. Too often he would hold the ball only to get himself into a position where he wasn’t getting a good shot or end up making a pass with little accomplished towards progressing the team’s offense. The fact that Pau was looking for his shot – be it a jumper, in the post, or when running the floor – and not over-thinking possessions is a good indicator that he’s mentally in a good place on the court.

Whether this trend continues into the actual tournament remains to be seen but these early returns are exactly what I’d like to see from Pau this summer. Be it fatigue (mental or physical) or some other issue, Pau clearly was not the same player in the recent playoffs as he’d shown during the rest of his tenure with the Lakers. If Pau can use his time in Europe to find his groove and come back as the confident player that many hailed as the most complete big man in the game, all of the fixes we’re discussing with this team become less important. Pau Gasol is that good a player and can make that type of an impact when at his best. Here’s hoping we see more of that Pau for the rest of the summer and into the season.

Darius Soriano

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14 responses to Can Pau Gasol Find His Groove In Europe?

  1. thisisweaksauce August 10, 2011 at 11:42 am

    This is why I love Pau’s decision to play this summer. Normally, I would hope for rest. But man, Pau wants/needs to show the world why he’s one of the best basketball players in the world/NBA.

  2. Shining against a weaker opponent doesnt make up for the egg he laid in the playoffs. Although I do hope that he is able to bounce back, so he can raise his stock to be traded. I have tired of the passive/aggresive mentality Pau resorted to last year. Either man up and say whats on your mind, or dont say nothing at all. Dont complain about getting the ball, but look lost and timid when you do. Every player and coach in the league knows how to get in this dudes head and throw him off his game. The Tim D. and D. Robinson blueprint sounds intriguing for next year, but who plays the part of Tim. Neither big is what Tim was in his prime during the championship years, hell Duncan is putting up the same rebounding numbers at 4 years his senior.

  3. A good summer in the Euros will at least get his confidence up.

    Pau on the court is a person that rides on confidence.

    When it’s up, he’s great and “the most skilled big man in the game.”

    When it’s down, he’s not playing to his potential, and people start calling him “Gasoft”.

    Bye.

  4. Any links for videos to clips / the game?

  5. @2 – do you think it was a case of the opposition getting into Pau’s head or more Pau getting lost in his own head? I was thinking about this the other day, remembering back to his meltdown in the playoffs. It’s one of the stranger things that I’ve seen in many years of watching basketball. He was missing so many point-blank chippies and would then slump back up the court talking to himself. The instance when Jackson shoved him in the chest was just… jarring. I’m glad to see him playing well again.

  6. The way Gasol fell apart in the playoffs is something that I do not remember ever happening, with such a talented, stable, experienced and level headed (did I leave anything out) player as him. We all know that he can be one of the top PF’s in the NBA, heck he is an All-Star after all. Gasol and LO just seem to have very good cohesion together, they know what each other is going to do. Unfortunately, this means that Gasol is playing Center. Hence, banging with heavier and stronger players or true centers as you can call them. Yes, I am soooo happy that he has come back to basketball, with an all-out take names later, destroy your opponent attitude.

  7. I truly believe its Gasol trying to be someone he is not on the court. We as fans want him to dunk with ill intent inside, he would rather finger roll. Knock someone on their butt when they come in the lane, he would rather not. He wants to do all these things that have given fans the ammunition to call him GaSoft, but its just not in his nature to be that type of player. The more he tries to shed that label, the less instinctive his game becomes. I cried all last season about getting the ball inside because that was the only way this team was going to win it all. No team in the league could match the size and mobility at the 4 and 5 position. The team not taking advantage of this at every possible moment had doom written all over it.

  8. as long as we face france in the playoffs, we are good.

  9. the other Stephen August 11, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    8. lakers vs. france. i love it, haha!

  10. 4. To answer my own question, link to the Spain/France game:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smMvhmp_0-w

  11. Although I know Pau’s failings in the playoffs were not because we weren’t feeding him inside enough (Kobe at times literally force-fed Pau in the post), it’s interesting to see his assertiveness when he’s with his pals. Also, I think a player like Calderon makes a big difference with Pau, as he seems like a more mobile PF when he does his screen/rolls with Calderon. In the playoffs, we had Pau setting up position on the low block, where he was bullied around by guys like Landry.

    Maybe we need to get a Spaniard on the team just so Pau gets some home cooking on the court.

  12. Pau was playing good because there is no distraction like Shannon’s denials and Vanessa’s gossips with Pau’s gf. Had Lakers focused only on basketball during the playoffs, they could have been competitive against the Mavs.

  13. DY,

    We’ll definitely have more P&R play next year under Brown’s offense, so you may get your wish. As Pruiti noted when he made a post at NBA Playbook a while back on how the Lakers may incorporate sets from the Duncan-Robinson Spurs, a lot of their halfcourt play was off the pick-and-pop and Gasol will be the primary screen setter in that scenario. Although Calderon is definitely a solid point, I’d imagine a Kobe/Gasol or Odom/Gasol P&R would look pretty good.