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Pau Gasol's soft reputation continues to be overblown

Sitting shirtless by his locker, Lakers forward Ron Artest requested that I back up so my camera could fully zoom in on his pectoral muscles.

He had just been reveling in the irony about what Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire recently said about Pau Gasol"He's still soft. He's a good player, but he also has help with Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and those 7-footers down there." Artest immediately countered, pointing out that Stoudemire posed naked on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's body issue, holding a basketball in one hand and covering his bare private parts with the other. "That's tough?" Artest said, drawing laughs from nearby teammates stretching in the locker room. "You've got no right to call Pau soft when you're dropping it like it's hot."

But what about Thunder center Kendrick Perkins? He made the same charge a little more than a month ago. As soon as I mentioned that, that's when Artest responded more with body language.

"That's why they got us," Artest said while flexing his muscles.

Unlike Artest, Gasol didn't share much amusement over the back-and-forth. Nor did he suddenly rip off his shirt and flex, hoping that would quiet any rumblings about his manhood. "I don't pay attention," he said, diplomatically. "It's a matter of jealousy."

So what's it going to take for those inaccurate comments finally to stop?

"Go win another championship and do it again," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "That keeps people quiet really quick."

Well, not really. Gasol's already accomplished that twice with the Lakers and each trip to the NBA Finals has brought closer examination of whether Gasol had evolved after being physically manhandled in the 2008 NBA Finals against Boston.

He responded the following season by bulking up and limiting Magic center Dwight Howard in the 2009 NBA Finals. Gasol entered the 2010 Finals, however, answering the same questions all week about his alleged lack of toughness in the 2008 Finals loss and how he had grown from that experience. Though there's no doubt Gasol was muscled inside in the 2008 Finals, most of it had to do with him not playing aggressively enough and lacking the strength to compete with Boston's physicality. His increased devotion to the weight room and increased aggressiveness complemented his mastery of the triangle offense, quick footwork, solid midrange game and accurate touch around the basket.

"When Pau came here," Odom noted, "we started getting back to the championship round."

Interesting how that works. In a funny twist, Gasol went through last season's championship run victimizing the same players who now boast that he's still soft. The Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns in six games in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, a series that featured Gasol scoring at ease partly because of Stoudemire's lack of defense. Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals showcased Gasol posting 19 points and 18 rebounds, while Perkins sat out of because of torn medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee. 

The Lakers went to great lengths defending El Spaniard, initially led by Bynum attacking Stoudemire on Twitter: "The NBA is a weird place! How can a man that plays 0 defense call a 2 time champion soft?" But there's always rumblings, even within the Lakers, about whether Gasol has proven his toughness, and for legitimate reasons. Many questioned how Gasol could fall to fatigue so quickly during Bynum's 25-game absence while rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee at the start of this season after Gasol had taken the whole summer off from basketball. With Gasol playing in the Lakers' 86-85 loss Tuesday to the Utah Jazz with a bone bruise in his right knee, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, in a half-joking and half-serious tone, told reporters, "Don't baby him" by expressing concern about the  injury. Bryant had even gone to great lengths to implore Gasol to be more aggressive inside instead of relying on Bryant to involve him in the offense. And  Jackson, who's needled Gasol plenty of times about his toughness when he finds it convenient, didn't sound entirely complimentary when defending Gasol from Stoudemire's charge of softness.

"The perception of this tall, lanky guy and how he plays the game may appear that way," Jackson said. "But he somehow has a knack of getting those 20 points and nine rebounds night in and night out. He's a pretty amazing athlete. The tenacity is there. He's a pretty tenacious guy and he wants to win. It's evident in the way we've played since he's come onto this team."

Gasol is never going to evolve into a enforcer player and he conceded as much as Jackson and opposing team's players tend to pick on him because of his friendly personality. "If I wasn't as nice or I cursed more and I was dirtier, that would change. But I'm not that kind of person."

The Lakers are fine with that. After all, Gasol averages 18.9 points on 52.8% shooting and 10.2 rebounds, numbers, by the way, that eclipse both Stoudemire's and Perkins' production. But basketball is never about statistics. It's about a player's presence on the floor. Gasol stormed into the game against Utah and scored 12 of his 19 first-quarter points with sequences that define too well his efficient skill set. A baseline jumper, a block against Paul Millsap, a lob to Bynum, two consecutive lefty hooks off spin moves and a kick-out to Derek Fisher for a three-pointer after a double team all served as plays that epitomized what Gasol brings on a consistent basis.

"When you're a finesse player and make a move and go to the hole, some people say you're soft," said Odom, who acknowledged that he used to have that reputation andthat  his recent unisex fragrance ad in which he appears unclothed with Khloe Kardashian has given opponents more ammo. "I know a lot of people who are big and bulky and go to the hole and trick you with it, and they think they're playing hard and tough, but it's just a misperception."

It's unfortunately a misperception that Gasol will continue to live with since it's been with him ever since winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award 10 seasons ago. The tag still clearly bothers him, as indicated by his serious reaction toward Stoudemire's recent comments. Gasol's continual effort to laugh off Jackson's zings also often mask his annoyance and frustration over his coach's mind games.  Gasol doesn't need to worry about proving his manhood to Stoudemire. There's no chance New York will advance to the NBA Finals. But when the Lakers play host to Oklahoma City on Sunday, there's no need for Gasol to prove anything to Perkins. His usual game will prove good enough.

"Some dudes in the park, work on being tough and being hard, and Pau is working on his skills," Artest said. "That's how it goes. They go mad hard, but Pau has got moves.

"I can be hard," Artest continued, pointing at his chest again. "That's why we here."

-- Mark Medina

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@CALIPHILOSOPHER LOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tell em Pau...it's all about Jealousy or I'll let a very young New Edition tell it...


Jealous Girl
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9HOIDU8wB0

MM, are you given a quota to put up so many threads per day? How come when Dan Luomena was here, there is a smooth transition on subject matter. Try this as an analogy, we are in a donut store having conversations about 15 junkies, you keep on interrupting changing the subject matter, what do you think will they tell ya? Will they be interested to what you are doing? I think you're gradually ruining your own blog. Your own bloggers create a discussion from their own post which is equivalent to another thread within a thread.

I just dropped by to say, let's win tonight's game for LakerTom and his grandchild, the lakerholics will be in attendance.

Wow! Leave it to Dwight Howard to pick up his 18th technical foul in a game against the Bobcats tonight - meaning that he'll end up sitting out the much bigger game against the Bulls on Friday night...now there's one smart player!
Yeesh!

What's more fitting?

Lakers winning 17th vs. Boston, tying the hated Celts?

or

Phil Jackson winning 12th vs. Chicago, where it all started?

@jefe101 I wouldn't be surprised if they removed the technical for tv viewing purposes.

Everyone is making far too much of this. If Pau isn't "soft" then how about "finesse?" You know who else was repeatedly called finesse (as an attempt to be critical)? Try the San Francisco 49ers of the 80's and early 90's. All they did was "finesse" their way to 5 Super Bowls in 13 years.

Pau is a finesse player. His instinct is to lay the ball up rather than to dunk; to avoid the defender instead of drawing contact; and to use skill rather than physical strength. I take issue with people who deny these facts, because they are facts. But that is not to say that Pau should be criticized for these approaches to the game. Two titles and a 19 point, 10 rebound average (here and, without the "protection", in Memphis) more than stand on their own.

Ron Ron put it best. While others are working on being "hard", Pau is working on his moves. The result is that Pau Gasol is going to be a multiple time NBA champion and eventual Hall of Fame inductee. Amare Stoudemire, by contrast, is guy who will never wear a championship ring, and won't see the inside of the Hall of Fame without paying admission.

As for Kendrick Perkins, if I was Pau I would cop to not being as tough as that guy. Instead, I'd just settle for having more talent, more money, more titles, and far better looks than a guy who is nothing more than the league's most useful meathead.

Can we draft Kemba Walker this weekend?

@ p ang - by FAR, winning #17 vs. Boston...especially with Shaq sitting on the Celtics bench in street clothes!

jefe,

Was it legit or might it be rescinded? In Dwight's defense he gets hammered more than any other player...yet as of a few weeks ago not one flagrant foul was called on him being hacked. Nevertheless, there's no excuse for losing your cool and hurting the team. Anyway, I believe Orlando is locked into the 4th seed.

Look... Gasol is "soft." However, he has been able to win on a Lakers squad. That's just the way it is. He can be "tough," but it's in spurts and he does so when he chooses and that's just the way it is. He's a top shelf complementary player but he's not franchise material. If he were, then he would still be in Memphis.

He's a thin, frail 7' Euro who prefers to play away from the basket a la Bosh with skills to get into the paint and score but again, his game complements what already exists on the team. Was he a missing piece? You're darn right he was and still is because they've been to the Finals every year since his arrival and have won 2 of the last 3 with a genuine opportunity for a 4th trip and a 3-peat to boot!

Is it difficult to watch him transform into a "wet noodle" as a game progresses? Ahhh, yes it is just as it is difficult to watch Kobe feel compelled to take on an entire team plus the bench on his own but in the end, in June, somehow, some way, this team is at the "big dance" threatening to bring it all back home. This TEAM is the sum of all of its parts beginning with Kobe and ending with Ebanks.


"Everything about the Lakers is geared toward winning playoff games. It's what they do." J.A. Adande


"Even when we didn’t make the playoffs, I thought we'd win the championship." Dr. Buss


"...they're shaking like virgins on prom night..." Faithdalakerfan


Go Lakers & In Buss We Trust!!


"jefe,

Was it legit or might it be rescinded? In Dwight's defense he gets hammered more than any other player...yet as of a few weeks ago not one flagrant foul was called on him being hacked. Nevertheless, there's no excuse for losing your cool and hurting the team. Anyway, I believe Orlando is locked into the 4th seed.

Posted by: LRob | April 06, 2011 at 05:53 PM "

True, and he gets a lot of technicals for things a lot of players get away with. They have already had to rescind several of his technicals this year that were issued without much cause.

LRob,
Howard was hit with the call when he was whistled for a ten second violation at the free throw line. It's a call that rarely gets made, but Dwight felt that he was clearly an unfair victim.
I get that the Magic are locked into the #4 seed, I just wanted to see the Bulls take on another loss, if possible, to give the Lakers a teeny bit more breathing room...

"LRob,
Howard was hit with the call when he was whistled for a ten second violation at the free throw line. It's a call that rarely gets made, but Dwight felt that he was clearly an unfair victim.
I get that the Magic are locked into the #4 seed, I just wanted to see the Bulls take on another loss, if possible, to give the Lakers a teeny bit more breathing room...

Posted by: jefe101 | April 06, 2011 at 06:00 PM "

Hahaha. He has been going way over the alotted 10 seconds for his free throws in the games I have seen recently. I wonder why they're not calling this more often.

i gonna repost this because it's typical of "smart" internet thought....

Posted by: migeymoto | April 06, 2011 at 04:14 PM

"Ha ha ha ha this fool said stu still has great insight and feel for the game....sure, if you have never played or watched basketball in your life...."

*****************

well, it goes to show how little you know. Stu just happens to be one of the TOP teachers of the game for professional and soon to be professional players in the NBA. he is known as "the shot doctor" and he's been teaching in the famous Pete Newell Big Man Camp for quite some time. typical internet **** who thinks he knows more than he really does...

Posted by: mud | April 06, 2011 at 05:21 PM

I strongly recommend for everyone to see Ron's video at the beginning.

Edwin - Again the last post I was three hours ago. It's not like I'm just throwing posts up every 15 minutes or anything.

Also - I'm planning to do an interview with Matt Barnes on Saturday where I ask him 10 fan questions. Feel free to start submitting them on the comment threads.

Ask Matt Barnes where his favourite city has been to play in and why, how does it compare to playing in La with the lakers?

@MM - I thought Ron was hilarious...especially him saying back up to get the full picture of his pecs.


@jefe - Thanks for the explanation

@ Cali.. LOL.. man just puttin on a clinic today.. looks like migeymoto just got a free ride on your school bus. thanks for evening laughter... great stuff!

@mud.. great point about pete newell... also one of the most influential college coaches ever who won title for cal in 59!

HILARIOUS...Ron Ron...

"That why we here"

Then he flexes his muscles...

Love the Ron Man...

MIAMI GOES DOWN...They lose to the Bucks at home...

Are we on moderation again...

Easter is soon here so i will subdue my natural alpha male and over the top rock type and my mud slinging, hobbit bashing, sean beating pie eating persona. I know that the priest rules with an iron fist and i layeth a beating so vicious on sean and hobbit that they disappeared off the scene. For this i am remorseful. So during the easter season if anyone attacks the priest for his views i will turn the other cheek. but be mindful that the priest only has two. Gasol is very skilled and the most important laker player but he is gasoft by nature. do anyone think that a guard is worried about getting into the paint when gasol is guarding it?

I don't think Gasol is soft. He may not be as strong as some of his opponents, but I don't see him backing away in timid fashion. However, he often plays with low energy and if he is not in flow tends to disappear on offense, not get in the way on defense and can be exposed on the boards. He struggles against other 7 footers and refuses to be a weak side defensive force.

Granted, he is one of the most talented players in the league. I just wish he had more of a lunch bucket mentality.

I'm holding judgement until end of the season. if the Lakers win it all - I won't have much to say. If they don't win with this team, I would be lobbying to trade down at the 4 and up at back up 2 and or starting point - trying to get a solid guard who can score and a tough defensive oriented 4.

Doubt that is a popular perspective and doubt the Lakers would even consider, but I think if the Lakers don't win title, going back to well to come back in 2012 would not be the best choice. Change would be necessary. I do hold on to the hope that the Lakers, including Gasol will dig in come playoff time and win it all again this season.

"Sitting shirtless by his locker room..."

I'm not sure who's writing these blog posts but whoever it is needs to work on their writing skills and accuracy. Ron Artest was not sitting shirtless by his locker ROOM. He was sitting shirtless by his locker in the locker room. I quit reading after that brilliant intro.

In your post tonight about the Lakers loss to the Golden State Warriors you stated that the Lakers have 4 games left and the Spurs 5 and that the Lakers will be hard pressed to catch the Spurs for the #1 seed in the West. Anyone that's been following the NBA knows the Spurs only have 3 games left after tonight and the Lakers cannot catch them now.

Pick up your game bro.

Ten to one the L wins the next four games to close out the season now that they're done sandbagging for the second seed (joke...kind of).

Stoudemire the jealous guy!

European big men are all finesse players. They can handle the ball and score, and don't rebound much. As far as being power players, they are soft, but I like their game.

We will see who is holding the ring when it is all over.
He is just mad because he has Anthony as his teammate and they will never make it to the top.

Dumbest post of the year. Shows the basketball knowledge of the writer.


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