Lakers midseason report card: Pau Gasol adjusting to new role
This is the second in a series of posts awarding midseason grades to some members of the Lakers.
How he performed: Averaged 17 points and 10.6 rebounds, 13th among NBA forwards, and shot 50.2%.
Good: Gasol remained professional about his flimsy standing with the Lakers. He first stomached the initial shock over the Lakers' unsuccessful attempt to trade him in a deal that would've landed Chris Paul. He has reiterated his desire to remain with the Lakers but has never criticized the organization for trying to ship him.
On the court, Gasol has appeared adaptable in playing more of a facilitating role while Andrew Bynum has showed more aggression in establishing post position. Even with the decrease in touches, Gasol's numbers don't represent a dramatic drop-off from the 18.8 points and 52.9% shooting he averaged last season. He also increased his aggressiveness after airing frustations last month because he felt the offense wasn't featuring him enough in the post. He also looked more relaxed and energetic in the last week since Kobe Bryant publicly criticized the front office.
Bad: It's easy to overstate how much the trade talks bother him. Gasol's drop-off in play points more to other factors. Bynum has assumed a larger offensive role. Gasol also remains inconsistent in matching his aggressiveness as a facilitator with establishing post position. But here's where the trade talks do affect him: when Gasol would miss easy shots or commit a turnover, he'd look incredibly frustrated. The body language suggested he was afraid of making mistakes because it might prompt the front office to ship him faster.
It hardly helps matters that Gasol has aired his grievances regarding Mike Brown's offense through the media rather than to the coach directly. It's way too passive-aggressive. But Brown has underutilized Gasol in an offense that mostly features Bryant. Brown initially envisioned a system similar to the one San Antonio ran when Brown was an assistant from 2000 to 2003, plugging Gasol and Bynum into the roles attached to Tim Duncan and David Robinson and involving touches in the high post and running pick-and-rolls. That hasn't happened often, showing the Lakers aren't taking advantage of a key strength.
It's not surprising the four-time All-Star missed an appearance this weekend in Orlando. Regardless of hi's decreased role, Gasol is going to have to take the initiative in retaining a large part of the offense. Gasol has too often delegated and his aggressiveness has come only in spurts. It's not that he's playing poorly. Gasol still has played efficiently. It's just that his skill set shows he can offer even more.
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Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol goes to his left hand to take a shot over Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka in the first half Thursday night in Oklahoma City. Credit: Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press / February 23, 2012