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Lakers Report Cards: Pau Gasol

Top photo: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson got tough with some players, including Pau Gasol, during the Game 3 loss to Dallas. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times This is the 10th edition of Lakers Report Cards, focusing today on starting power forward Pau Gasol.

Grade: B-

Any Laker fan who goes through their DVR can find countless clips documenting Pau Gasol's lackluster showing in the playoffs.

There's the dramatic: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson berating Gasol and thumping him on his chest during a timeout in the team's Game 3 loss to Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals. Gasol expressed frustration whenever Dirk Nowitzki nailed a difficult jumper over him; when his (Gasol's) shooting slump continued or when he missed a defensive rotation.

There's the execution: Gasol appeared passive on offense and avoided contact in the lane. He mostly gave up on defense. And he left most of the rebounding duties to Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest

And there's the ongoing commentary regarding Gasol's poor play: He continuously owned up to his shortcomings and provided rambling analysis on how and why he would improve things. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Coach Phil Jackson initially called him out publicly in a constructive manner and then avoided piling on the negativity. And then, of course, there were the persistent and strongly disputed Internet reports suggesting relationship problems involving his girlfriend, Bryant and Bryant's wife, Vanessa. 

By the time the next training camp starts, whenever that is, the legacy behind Gasol's 2010-2011 season will boil down to a simplistic rendition of  him single-handedly bringing down the Lakers in a four-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals to Dallas and teammates promptly downplaying his struggles. Lakers guard Derek Fisher provided that framework in a spirited defense of Gasol in his exit interview. 

"I wish we could have done something to make it better, not because we thought he was struggling and he was causing us problems," Fisher said, "but so we could've done something so that all that would've just shut up. If we had kept winning, there wouldn't be much for people to say."

Fisher certainly has a point about the unfair and inaccurate stories involving Gasol's personal life. Fisher also proved correct in clarifying there were other mitigating factors that led to the Lakers' postseason struggles, which, in my mind, included the team's situational attitude, Bryant's late-game struggles, Fisher's lacking clutchness, Lamar Odom's sudden inconsistency, Ron Artest's unpredictability, reserves' continual unreliability and Dallas' impressive play. But Gasol's poor play provided a trickle-down effect in plenty of other areas plaguing the Lakers, including poor defensive rotations and lacking size advantage. Gasol's poor grade doesn't just reflect his tepid 13.1 points on 42.9% shooting in postseason, as much as that is important with determining a players' worth to the Lakers. It also points to Gasol's sudden pendulum swing in performances throughout the season. 

60970628-1It appeared nothing would stop Gasol at the beginning the season, which he opened with the remarkable efficiency and consistency that has defined his game since he joined the Lakers in February 2008, spurring three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and back-to-back titles. He earned the Western Conference player of the month honors in November, averaging 20.3 points on a 54.1% clip, scoring at least 20 points in 10 of the 18 games and recording 14 double-doubles. His stat line of 28 points on 10-of-10 shooting and an eight-of-eight clip from the free-throw line in the Lakers' 117-89 victory Nov. 21 over Golden State marked the sixth time in Lakers history that a player secured a perfect shooting percentage when attempting at least 10 shots. And it appeared when he was ready to handle the heavy responsibility in filling in for Andrew Bynum's eventual 24-game absence while recovering from off-season surgery on his right knee.

But then Gasol suddenly hit the brakes. He followed up his statistically perfect performance against the Warriors by shooting below 50% in three of the next four games, contests in which he played at least 40 minutes, finishing up a month in which he averaged 39.7 minutes per game. Gasol acknowledged fatigue caught up to him, but it's head-scratching that played such a factor in his eventual sluggishness considering he rested all of last summer after three consecutive Finals appearances and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His increased playing time also didn't drastically exceed the minutes he logged in the 2009-2010 season (36.97). And the nine games he logged 40-plus minutes was partially offset by the four contests he played below 35 minutes because the Lakers' coasted to double-digit victories.

Still, that led to inconsistency. Even when Bynum returned to the lineup on Dec. 15 and assumed a starting role 12 games later, Gasol's play in December (16.3 points on 49%) and January showed that the reduced playing time didn't completely make up for the heavy lifting he performed during Bynum's absence. He appeared tentative, eager to cut corners on defense and generally passive whenever confronted physically. When Gasol's shot didn't fall, he rarely found ways to try to remain effective, and the drop in production severely hurt the Lakers.

That all changed once Bryant implored Gasol to be aggressive after hearing him lament about the team's lack of ball movement in the Lakers' 109-96 loss Jan. 31 to the Celtics. Gasol responded by scoring at least 20 points in five of the first six games in February, notching three double-doubles and shooting above 50% in all six games. The effort eventually statistically capped his most productive month of the 2010-2011 season in February by averaging 20.5 points on 59.2% shooting, numbers that are drastically different than the ones he posted in January, when he averaged 16.8 points per game on 50.8% shooting.

Once the playoffs hit, Gasol's aggressiveness eventually reverted back. He arrived late to Staples Center prior to Game 1 of the Lakers-New Orleans first round series, provided a passive eight points on two-of-nine shooting, six rebounds, zero offensive boards and poor defense on pick-and-roll plays and immediately prompted Bryant to call him out for his lackluster play. Gasol's aggressiveness improved throughout the series, but that proved as fleeting as the Lakers' quick unraveling to Dallas. 

By no means should this soil Gasol's legacy with the Lakers nor should it mean the Lakers should simply trade him. Every on-court criticism directed toward Gasol about his 2010-2011 season, however, proves warranted and accurate. Surely, he may use this as motivation and immediately revert to his normal habits. But it should've never gotten to that point.

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Top photo: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson got tough with some players, including Pau Gasol, during the Game 3 loss to Dallas. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Pau Gasol collides with Hornets center DJ Mbenga on a drive in the second quarter at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / April 17, 2011

 
Comments () | Archives (33)

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HEY!!! NO FAIR MM, YOU SWITCHED UP ON THE GRADE!! THE PSP SEEN THAT C+ OR WHATEVER IT WAS!

So LBJ is under the weather, but he's gonna tough it out, WOW!

Regular Season Pau: B

Playoff Pau: F-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pau is still usefull and one of the best power forwards in NBA and world. We need to keep core intact and add youth, athletism, perimerter scoring and defense and of course pg upgrade. Just need tweeks and not overhaul and we can win the next 3 ships.

Blame Gasol if you want to but to me it's a cop out. One man does not define this team, the team does. Could Gasol have played better? Absolutely, but you better turn that little magnifying glass onto every single Laker on the squad and see what burns because Gasol had nothing to do with Shannon Brown dribbling out possessions at the top of the key, Steve Blake basically being afraid to shoot, and Artest losing his way. He certainly had nothing to do with Kobe playing at a level we haven't seen in some time.


I think that he felt disrespected by the media, the refs and ultimately the team. If we won, it was someone else who was great, if we lost he was blamed. That's a hard rep to live up to. Do well and you're slighted, team fails and you're blamed.


His outside touch came and went so he probably could've worked on his jumper more throughout the season. His rebounding decline isn't too shocking considering that Lamar and Bynum are excellent rebounders, Kobe is an excellent rebounder for a guard and Artest likes to mix it up inside. However, he does need to shut his trap and play through perceived missed calls, that is one area I think a lot of Lakers could focus on. Ignore the refs, they will blow calls for both teams so just leave 'em alone.


Should be interesting to see if they trade him, we certainly won't get what we should based on his poor post season and once he's gone so does our only dependable low post threat. Bynum, to me, still has to bring what he brought sporadically in the playoffs every single night. Once he got on the court he didn't miss time, but he needs a full 82 game season and a playoff run where he brings his game every night in order for me to say it's time to start thinking of Drew as a cornerstone of the franchise.


Kobe, despite the mileage, brings it every single night. he never tells the media he's tired, never says that he's too hurt not to play. He just laces 'em up and plays. Bynum is getting there and next season will determine what happens with him, but in my mind he's an above average role player on this Laker team. Kobe earned it the hard way, Drew has to as well.

Paula and Artest for Howard and Arenas (only way the Magic make the trade)

By the way can't think of a more appropriate picture. MBenga is not even touching him but Paula looks like he has being shot

I like mclyne's format...

regular season B
playoffs D

"By the way can't think of a more appropriate picture. MBenga is not even touching him but Paula looks like he has being shot

Posted by: DAVID | May 18, 2011 at 05:50 PM "


Hahahaha. Actually I think this is a split second after Mbenga's chin hit Pau right under the eye and gave him a pretty good cut.

Y'all have lost your damn minds. Every last one of you. There is not a single power forward better than Pau Gasol. Not one. Hell, if Gasol were a center he'd still be the second-best player at his position.

Don't spend so much time on the narrative and the ups and downs. Look at what Gasol did this year and compare it to what he did the last two years. It's exactly the same! Was he a B- player last year? Of course not. If you want to grade him down extra for the playoffs, fine, but that takes him from an A to an A-/B+. There's simply no way on earth to justify a B-. It cannot be done.

@Jason,

I have a 'soup opera' theory about Gasol:

Gasol is not a 'true Laker', he is a gunslinger for hire that was brought in midseason to cover for a broken Bynum, someone that was supposed to be the #2 but that, due to a combination of bad luck and other issues, is not yet quite there.

On the other hand, Bynum is a 'true Laker', he got there when he was 18 years old, he has only known the lakers and he was showing a lot of promise.

Imagine how something like that would play in a company, you working in a team and suddenly a new guy comes, gets the second spot in the team and the team gets so much better. It is frustrating, and in some sense, disappointing, because those two rings were supposed to be Bynum's but instead they were attributed to Pau's presence in the team. I can understand how many people that were really enthusiastic about Bynum (myself included) tend to see more the negative parts of Pau's game rather than the positive. In that sense, though Bynum greatly disappointed me in game 4, I can also understand Bynum's frustration, this was supposed to be his year. And Pau's poor crappy play is not a valid excuse, because the last two rings took place with Bynum down. I am sure that Bynum's time will come, but it is not here yet.

Jason,

Dirk is a power forward. And he owned Pau.

LBJ a fantastic player rained fire and brimstone on the Bulls all night. Can you imagine old man kobe going against these studs? It would have been brutal and embarassing on the international stage for our beloved mamba. Thankfully Dallas put kobe out of his misery.

Jason, Zach Randolph is better, chris bosh is better, Marc Gasol is better, Blake griffin is way better, all better than pau at power forward.

Oh I forgot amare stoudamire

Bay to La, I Can name half a dozen power forwards better than pau

LBJ a fantastic player rained fire and brimstone on the Bulls all night. Can you imagine old man kobe going against these studs? It would have been brutal and embarassing on the international stage for our beloved mamba. Thankfully Dallas put kobe out of his misery.

Posted by: island priest | May 18, 2011 at 08:23 PM

Island Priest,

I 1,000,000% agree.

Zach Randolph is better, chris bosh is better, Marc Gasol is better, Blake griffin is way better, all better than pau at power forward.

Posted by: Ronnie | May 18, 2011 at 09:01 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Zach: maybe.
Chris Bosh: You gotta be $#!tting me.
Marc: He's a center, not a power forward.
Blake: We'll see, not now.
Amare: Na uh. And that's coming from a big fan of Amare.


Every one is to blame for the lakers demise. They look old, slow and not interested, and overmatched. Gasol was no bigger of a problem then the others.There are some talented young teams who are on the upswing. The Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs are not aging gracefully. The Kobe era is in decline. The lakers are not going to be able to get teams to just trade away talent unless the lakers can send back talent in return. As laker fans we should be greatful to the Buss family for putting an excellent product on the floor. I noticed Dodger stadium was over half empty tonight and the fans were moved down in front to look like there were more fans in the stadium on television. The same thing will happen to the lakers if they drop out of it.

All of you laker fans have short term memory loss. It's safe to say the Lakers didn't have enough in the tank for a title.. but don't act like they couldn't have beaten any of these teams. Before Dallas pounded our boys into submission, Kobe wasn't old and the team was set for a threepeat... remember? It wasn't even a month ago.

Pau isn't superman... true.. but think back to the beginning of the season when he was putting up monster numbers. Back then, we were all saying that he was one of the top players in the game without question. As for the other guys you 'fans' are throwing ahead of Pau...

Do you remember the last season that Amare played in Phoenix? Let's just say, if he played the way he plays now, he definitely wouldn't be a New York Knick. Phoenix would have given him the Sun.

Zach Randolph played fantastic basketball for the Grizzlies... but Pau has always been able to stay right with him while getting the double team from his brother off the block.

Blake Griffin is just getting started..

Bosh? This season he has gotten the better of Pau for sure... but I still wouldn't say he's better. He was just blessed with having two other all world talents to steal the attention from him.

and Dirk... haha.. I was definitely surprised that no one mentioned him as the best PF in the game. Now, there's no question about it.

As for all the old man Kobe remarks... did you watch the all-star game? Remember what that old man did when Lebron was chasing him down? How he made D-Wade look like his child? What about the heat vs Laker game round 2? When he held D-Wade to a brutal shooting percentage? I still consider Kobe Bryant to be the best in the league. The fact he can do what he does with a busted shooting finger and no real offseason to rest and train since 2007 is nothing short of ridiculous.

The Lakers aren't dead... and 32 isn't old as long as you're taking care of yourself. Even if you do have mileage.

I can't wait to see what all of you say next year when the Lakers are looking like champs again.

Just watched Gasol do an interview on Spanish television here in Madrid. He looked like he was about to cry. He talked about things being unfair and how he was unfazed about the criticizes he was recieving in LA. He felt bad his family and those close to him had to endure this because of his failure during the playoffs. Not once did he just come out a say I did not play well period. For me his grade is a C - probably a D for the playoff funk. Really Gasol has not played aggressively all year. I cannot remember when he got a rebound in traffic over someone. His defense on Dirk and his help defense during the playoffs was laughable. He was a two steps late on defense and non factor on offense which for me means his effort just was not there. Justify him all you want but he just has not played well for at least the last 4 months.

To me the issue is that the Lakers never learned how to play the "twin towers" game. Prior to Pau Drew was the beast. Then Pau became the beast. Either one of the two could have anchored a championship run. Both - not so much. The other major roadblock to success was changing Drews role for the playoffs. Prior to the playoffs, he was Mr. D and he knew his role. It is tough to ask a young guy without much experience to go from Mr. D to a role he has not played in 18 months or so. The repair is on the way in terms of a new coach. To me, you ride the pony that brung ya. Gaint strategic changes for the playoffs are hard to make work.

You can't BLAME every one for the Lakers demise. That would be just wrong.
But here's some you can.
1st. you have to start with Phil, not making any adjustments or the right ones. He should have shut down Kobe for the last week of the playoffs, just like the Spurs did Duncan.
2nd. you have to blame Cupcake for keeping players on this team that have no value, we had the weakest bench in the playoffs.
3rd. you have to blame Pau. His tenative play created so many other issues for the Lakers that therre could never really get over the hump. He's the 2nd best player on the team and you would of thought he played like a bench player. That's a huge impact in the flow of the offense and demoralizes your team. I looked at the tape of the games (painstakingly)again and the ball went into the middle on 80% of the Lakers possessions. They were successful on 28% of the time. Pau would let his man root him out the post, he would trow te ball back out, and then he would let his made push him out further, preventing the re-post.
3rd. you have to blame O'Dumb, he reverted back to seldom LO, and provided no muscle or energy to help the team.
4th. you have to blame Kobe for staying in the offense, when he should have went Kobe on them.

No you can't blame the entire team, but there's a few you can blame.

>>>I think that he felt disrespected by the media, the refs and ultimately the
>>> team. If we won, it was someone else who was great, if we lost he was
>>>blamed.


That's poppycock.

POPPYCOCK, I SAY!

Early in the season, when Pau was playing really well (kinda like DIRK is playing right now) the media and fans were mostly declaring PAU a potential MVP candidate. Several TV analysts dubbed him the best PF in the game. And he deserved that consideration for his consistent play.

When Pau tired out in December and the Lakers lost some games partly because he was shooting poorly, they said "Pau is tired from having carried the burden of starting center, when he's more suited to being a power forward." Other people got blame as well, but Pau got a share of the blame.

When the All-Stars came around, there were a bunch of PFs on the bubble (Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Lamar Odom, etc.), but Pau's spot was never ever in doubt. Fans, media, and coaches alike considered him one of the top 2 or 3 PFs in the league.

But when the playoffs come around, stars need to play like stars. You don't expect the role players to carry teams. If JJ Barea plays out of his mind, that's nice, but Dallas is really counting on Dirk and Terry to score a bunch, Jason Kidd to run the offense efficiently, and everybody else to just not suck.

With the Lakers, you expect Kobe and Pau and Drew to kick ass, Lamar &/or Artest to kick in a little something, and everyone else not to suck.

Kobe actually played really well for all but the last game of the Dallas series. He knew his ankle wasn't going to let him play his usual game, so he played in more control, took less shots (as so many analysts and bloggers here BEG him to do) and did what he could. In game 4, he tried to play with more desperation, but pushing his game at that point made him shoot worse.

Pau came up soft for the whole playoffs. First he played soft in New Orleans, and then let the Dallas bigs push him out off the block. He shot 42% for the whole Dallas series. 42% would be bad even if KOBE was shooting it, but Pau is a PF, who takes more short shots than long jumpers, so he should be shooting >50% if he's playing well (and as he played the last two playoffs).

So THAT is why Pau gets the bulk of the blame for the playoff swoon by the Lakers. They weren't getting blown out in any of the first three games. But Pau let himself get pushed around like the 2008 finals series and shot poorly. When you're the #2 player on a team, you need to play like it. Pau didn't.

I think Pau has been great for the team. I think if you have the same lineup and Kwame Brown instead of Pau, the Lakers wouldn't have won any rings in 2009 and 2010. Pau is a good enough 2nd player on the Lakers to raise them to that level. He gets oodles of credit for that. Nobody is saying Shannon Brown or Sasha Vujacic or Lamar Odom is the reason the Lakers won those rings - it's Kobe and Pau who get the majority of the credit.

And Pau gets the majority of the blame for this year's burnout. If Kobe had shot 40% in the Dallas series, then all the pundits would be asking if Kobe was done. If he had anything left... But Kobe shot a very good 46% for the Dallas series, and WAS deferring shots to the bigs and his other teammates. So Kobe gets a little bit of blame for things like the missed 3 and the turnover late in game 1, but if Pau was playing like he played in 2009 and 2010, then those issues wouldn't even have come up because the Lakers would have been leading by 10 at the ends of those games.

>>>Y'all have lost your damn minds. Every last one of you. There is not a single
>>> power forward better than Pau Gasol. Not one. Hell, if Gasol were a center
>>> he'd still be the second-best player at his position.

If you had said this LAST YEAR about this time, then I'd agree with you.

I think you might want to actually go back and watch the Dallas series. In that series, Pau wasn't even the best PF on the floor.

And then you should go watch the Memphis-San Antonio and Memphis-Oklahoma City series. If Pau was a center, he'd only be the 2nd best center in his family.

I hope Pau can get back up to the level he was playing in the 2009 and 2010 playoffs. I think he can. But if that's the real Pau, then what we got in this year's playoffs is the Faux Pau.

Bring back the real Pau in 2012!

F.

(Purely based on the playoffs. It would be enough for anyone to receive a failing grade.)

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!!

Pau deserves the soft label. He is a great finesse shooter and would help the team more if that's what his job on the team is limited to be. I am a Laker fan down to my core, but Pau drives me crazy, and has since his first game in a Laker uniform.

His finesse flips to the basket, have been blocked too many times. I can not understand why a 7 footer needs to flip a shot off the glass when he's under the basket instead of throwing it down. He does this over and over and it makes me scream at my TV and frightens my children.

Another thing Pau does is post up too far from the basket and then stands there waving the ball around until he's doubled, blindsided and gets the ball poked away for a turnover. Coach Jackson even commented on that very thing after the game where he was constantly yelling at Pau. He does this over and over and over.

Pau needs an area on the floor where he can catch and shoot or pass. No dribbles and no waving the ball around.

Pau gets a C+ for the regular season and a D- for the playoffs and anything higher than that is people not understanding just how good a player he has been in the past and what he really can do game in and game out. Pau took the offseason off literally and that set him back from day 1. Anyone could see this was not the same Pau and he didn't put in the necessary off season work to come into the year strong. Then, the staff screwed him when Bynum was hurt by playing him 40+ minutes which set him back even further. Then, the playoffs speak for themselves. Pau needs to get ready starting in July.

To all Laker fans:

Pau Gasol is NOT a power forward!

He's a center.

Power forwards have a "powerful" game. Gasol is a finesse center. He's just week. All finesse. When Bynum is there, he is lost because he doesn't have the game to really be effective at the 4 position. In the NBA, the 4 is usually the "thug". Always have been. The 5's now are just shot blockers and moderate scorers. The 4's are the "man". Zack, Dirk, Amare, Blake, Aldridge, etc.. etc ..etc..

Remember the Houston Rockets, back in the day with Dream and Sampson? It really didn't work..... It usually won't work. So, as I've told many a people, the Lakers need a "real" PF and a "real" PG. Find a "true" basketball scorer coming off the bench, and all will be fine in LakerLand!

DJ

How is this for "simplistic". With all things being the same, we lost 2 of the 4 games by a total of 8 point. If Pau scores his average or even near it, we are tied 2-2 instead of losing in a sweep.

You can rationalize away Pau's poor performance any way you like but it doesn't change the facts.

I don't understand people who say "old man Kobe". I can understand and tolerate "injured and not quite as effective Kobe", but not "old".

This man has played well into June the last several years while "young" guys like LBJ, D wade, Dirk are usually fishing and resting in May or before.

MJ was 33 when his Bulls went something like 72-10 for the season and MJ winning his fourth ring. MJ went on to win two more rings.

KOBE IS ONLY 32!!!

I foresee at least THREE more years of domination before Kobe hangs it up. Even then, he can still be a role player like Shaq.

I appreciate the responses. Blake, Z-Bo, and Amare all pale in comparison to Gasol on the defensive end. Amare is better offensively, and Blake might be, but I just don't see them holding a candle to Gasol in simple one-on-one defense.

Maybe it's foolish and arbitrary, but I don't consider Dirk a power forward -- he plays much more like an SF in a PF's body. (Which is what makes him so impossible to defend. Neither Pau nor any other PF can play out with him on the perimeter.) And even if I did consider him a PF, I think it's the same problem -- Dirk's not as bad on defense as he once was, but he's not good, either.

I don't think this "power forwards have power games" holds, either. Pau is tall enough to be a center and has skill and touch around the basket, but he's not built strong enough to muscle around in the paint all the time. He has a nice midrange jumper and can do some things from that area of the floor, like pass and dribble. These are things power forwards do. Kevin Garnett: ultimate power forward, right? Where's the power in his game?

B - is way too kind. D. His perfomance or lack thereof cost us a return to the finals. period. He needs to be moved.


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