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Amare Stoudemire's criticisms on the Lakers have the opposite effect

April 5, 2011 |  5:12 pm

This isn't going to be a post decrying Amare Stoudemire for making such an easy stereotype by proclaiming Pau Gasol "soft."

This also isn't going to lead into a nuanced analysis that Gasol has evolved to be more than just a European punching bag and into a player more capable of absorbing physical contact, maintains his skillset as a finesse mid-range jumpshooter and occasionally falls into lapses where he could toughen up a bit.

As tired as it is hearing this regurgitating talking point, it's tiring enough having to respond to it. I've already addressed it in detail during the 2010 NBA Finals, during certain moments of last season and when some players, such as Kendrick Perkins, cling to this wide-held belief. So there's no use plowing old ground. Lakers center Andrew Bynum already took care of that via Twitter: "The NBA is a weird place! How can a man that plays 0 defense call a 2 time champion soft?"

But here's one thing that will surely comfort Laker fans about Stoudemire besides Bynum's assessment. Whenever Stoudemire opines about a Lakers subject, it seems to have an opposite effect. That doesn't mean his take is always wrong. But Stoudemire's commentary often paints the issue as black and white.

Here's a brief rundown.

Stoudemire calls Gasol soft: At a Foot Locker event, Stoudemire recently shared this about Gasol: "He's still soft. He's a good player, but he also has help with Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and those seven-footers down there. He has a supportive cast." Well, duh. But that's not a knock on Gasol. The Lakers are a pretty talented bunch. Gasol followed that up with 16 points on seven-of-10 shooting and 12 rebounds against Denver, but his early play surely featured him settling for too many jumpers despite the Nuggets giving him the space in the lane to drive. But after Nuggets center Nene committed a hard foul on Gasol in the third quarter, he returned to the game after a brief trip to the locker room. After receiving an MRI Monday that showed a bone bruise in his right knee, Gasol still pledged he's healthy enough to play Tuesday against Utah.

Stoudemire accuses Bryant of being a ballhog: After Bryant put posted 37 points and 14 rebounds and earned his 4th All-Star MVP in the 2011 game at Staples Center, the only praise Stoudemire could offer was a criticism fired at Bryant for his entire 15-year career. "You could tell he started out from the start, he wanted to get the MVP," Stoudemire said with a laugh. "He was not passing the ball at all . . . but that's Kobe." Umm, this is the All-Star game, you know, a game that features little defense, alley oop lobs and amazing theatrics. If Bryant was a ballhog (yes he was), his teammates didn't really seem to care since they passed him the ball in hopes it might break Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star record of 42 points in 1961.

Surely, Bryant's had a tendency to go on his scoring spree at the expense of balanced offense and team chemistry, a never-ending chicken-or-egg argument. But Bryant played the following four games in varying roles. He played facilitator against Atlanta, led a comeback charge against Portland, did the same against the Clippers despite an injured right elbow and then played facilitator again against the speedy Thunder.

Stoudemire argues Lamar Odom had a "lucky game" in Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Western Conference Finals: I have to thank Stoudemire for describing Odom's 19-point performance in the Lakers' Game 1 victory against Phoenix as simply a "lucky game." The media surely got mileage out of the comments, asking the Lakers for their reaction and using lucky jokes during Game 2 of the NBA Finals. The criticism at the time was wrong, but it spoke to a larger point.Odom entered the series averaging 8.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, which ranked below his regular-season average of 10.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, a clip that prompted even former Laker James Worthy to publicly question his effort. Too bad Odom followed that effort in Game 2 with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

--Mark Medina

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