Over in Lithuania, at the EuroBasket Tournament, Pau Gasol is rolling. He’s playing efficient basketball and again showing why he’s considered one of the best players in the world. In Friday’s Spanish drubbing of Serbia, Pau was the leading scorer with 26 points in only 23 minutes of action, missing only 4 combined field goals and free throws (going 8-10 and 7-9 respectively), while grabbing 8 rebounds, dishing 3 assists, blocking 2 shots, and committing only a single turnover. Needless to say, this is the Gasol we’ve grown to love and appreciate in his Laker career.
But more than the numbers and his overall stellar production, it’s the role in which he’s being asked to play while still producing these statistics that has me encouraged. Simply put, Gasol is being asked to be the man for his home country and he’s delivering in spades.
Gasol is notorious for being one of the game’s most unselfish players and often adapts his game to try and play within the team concept. Even when he speaks out to the press about wanting the ball more it’s nearly always within the context of wanting more touches rather than wanting more shots. When expanding on this idea he’s always speaking within the terms of how to best utilize not just himself, but the rest of his teammates in order to produce the best results. Some view this as a passive-aggressive way of complaining about his teammates (cough, cough Kobe) but I’ve always taken these statements at face value and to mean that he wants everyone (including himself) more involved while not putting anyone above the team’s success.
However, when playing for his home country, Pau is taking on a different role than the highly skilled #2 to Kobe’s #1. He’s being asked to do more; he’s being asked to be the focal point of his team’s success. It’s no coincidence that Spain lost its only game this tournament when Pau sat out nursing a sore ankle or that Spain pulled away from Germany in the 2nd half of their match up when Gasol asserted himself on offense and raised his game. Pau is thriving as the driving force behind his team’s success. If you’re a Laker fan, this is a great development and the biggest reason to be encouraged about Pau bouncing back when the NBA season resumes.
You see, Gasol may be the number 2 behind Kobe, but his value to the Lakers’ success is equal to that of #24. In the Lakers’ recent championship seasons Gasol has come up huge and it’s that level of contribution that will lead to another chance to claim the Larry O’Brien trophy next season. Of course there will need to be a balance to his game as he will be returning to a roster that not only has Kobe, but other talented teammates that deserve the ball and opportunities to help the team. But it’s undeniable that Pau will also need to channel that part of his game that puts him up front as a focal point of the team for the Lakers to win it all as they did in 2009 and 2010. And in order to achieve that level of individual play, Gasol also has to embrace his role as a co-conspirator to Kobe, not a guy that stands behind him.
And make no mistake, Pau is getting that chance as Spain’s leading man this summer. The fact that he’s embracing it and succeeding is why I’m feeling good about Pau Gasol. And why you should be too.
I watched Darius Morris play at UCLA a few
days ago and he dominated. Looks like the next Magic. The only thing good about Gasol playing is that it keeps his lazy but in shape. How he performs now has nothing to do with how he will play this fall. Just as how he dominated last fall had nothing to do with how he played last spring.
With a healthier Kobe and Bynum at the start of the next season(whenever that is), their strong personalities alone will make this turtle retreat to his shell once again. Playing with teamates that admire you and think you are next best thing since slice bread is a little different than those that think you are their equal.
JT's Hoops Blog says
Personally, I have always liked Gasol. I don’t think he should have been given so much of the blame when the Lakers just tanked it in the second round against the Mavs. The whole team stunk in that series.Most of the criticism he recieved was unwarranted. Lakers fans should thank their lucky stars that they have one of the best post players in the game on their side.
And…Phil’s still got it.
dave m says
@1. Good to hear about Morris. As far as Pau, I don’t really understand that reasoning… he’s an athlete and how he plays in one setting or period of time seems very clearly linked to other times and places. Like the saying ‘it’s all part and parcel’. But, we each have our different ways of looking at things.
JT’s Hoops Blog: Much of the criticism Pau received WAS warranted. What wasn’t warranted was all of the hate he received and continues to receive.
Pau’s arrival did a great deal to help the Lakers’ franchise – without him we likely get bounced out of the first round that year with ‘Drew injured and then we likely have an incredibly pissed off Kobe demanding a trade with a very imminent player option providing him a great deal of leverage to force a trade. The only thing we’ve accomplished since Pau got here was go to three straight finals – an accomplishment that only a handful of teams in NBA history have accomplished – and win two straight. He was a big part of delivering that much joy and pride to the fanbase, and their response every time he has a poor showing is to question his masculinity and insult him at every turn.
A pretty damning indictment of the Laker fanbase, really, which is part of the reason why I don’t dispute it when people rip on Laker fans. There are a ton of great fans who support the team, but the very size of the fanbase just means that there are that many more people who just like to spew hate at every opportunity.
I love how Aaron is willing to proclaim that Morris looks like the next Magic based on what?…pick-up games at UCLA? But when it comes to Pau playing good basketball at the Eurobasket Tournament, it doesn’t mean anything. Doesn’t really compute.
I rarely agree with everything anyone writes–even myself–but I agree with almost every word you wrote–especially the last 4 sentences.
Guys, I was joking about Morris. Common boys.
Gabriel R. says
9: Maybe the sarcasm tag wasn’t big enough?
I’ll take a more confident Pau anyday of the week versus the Pau that can sometimes take a backseat mentally and physically. This is not “his team”, it’s still Kobe’s, but anything he can do to assert himself is fine by me. Kobe is great and legendary, but it takes a whole team to win.
Darius Soriano says
Some morning links are up.