Exit interview: Pau Gasol owns up to shortcomings in 2011 NBA playoffs
It served as an easy way to break the ice and to cut to the chase.
"You know this is all your fault, right," a reporter joked to Lakers forward Pau Gasol the minute he sat down for his exit interview.
That joke of course was referring to Gasol's postseason play during which he averaged 13.1 points on 42.9% shooting, played passively and allowed both on- and off-court adversities to rattle his mental focus. Gasol didn't shy away from the characterization, even the one that suggested he was a huge factor in why the Lakers suffered a four-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks.
"The thing that makes me the angriest is me not playing at my best and not helping my team accomplish its goals," said Gasol, who described the 2010-2011 season as very emotional. "I’m not happy, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to perform at my usual high level, but obviously I’m not playing alone. It’s time to analyze, to sit back and see what actually happened out there, not just through this last stretch but throughout the year. I think we have to really look deep into how we started, the ups and downs, the meaning of them and what we could have done better individually and as a team to be able to get stronger at certain times when we needed to. It’s unfortunate the way we ended it up; anything short of winning the championship would have been very tough.”
He strongly took issue with Internet reports that indicated he stopped talking to Kobe Bryant during the postseason because Bryant's wife, Vanessa, had contributed to the breakup of Gasol and his longtime girlfriend, which he said was "absolutely false." But he considered everything else to be fair criticism, including his playoff shortcomings, inconsistency and fatigue issues, which is why he's planning to use the poor effort and a possible stint with the Spanish National team this summer as preparation for a better 2011-2012 campaign.
"Through the rough times, you appreciate more the good times you might've had and how hard it is to get there," Gasol said. "[I’m excited] to start off next season fresh and be full of hunger again.”
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Pau Gasol. Credit: Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times.