Coming off back to back All-Star campaigns and a clutch performance against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, Pau Gasol, it seemed, had finally beat back all of the doubters that had called him soft just two years earlier. It’s ironic then that as the 2011 season finishes, those same critics are now as loud as ever.
Regular Season Grade: A-
Gasol came out on fire to begin the season. During he Lakers going 13 – 2 start the Spaniard was arguably their best player. Over that 15 game span he averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists on a robust 55% from the field. On November 7th against Portland he recorded a triple double, then followed it up 4 days later with a 17 points and 20 rebounds against the Nuggets.
Unfortunately,the 40 minutes per night he averaged over the first month of the season seemed to take a toll on Pau. By early December, Pau was complaining about fatigue and his numbers were beginning to falter. The Lakers hot start was now a memory.
However, once Andrew Bynum came back into the fold, soaking up a few of Pau’s minutes, Gasol seemed settle in to a more comfortable groove.
He earned his third straight All-Star selection and his season averages of 19 points and 10 rebounds are nearly identical to what he’s put up as a Laker the previous three seasons. Pau’s play also merited him All-NBA second team honors and the assumption was heading into the playoffs that he would have the ability to step his game up even further, just as he had in years past.
Playoff Grade: D
One of the lingering questions from the 2011 Lakers campaign will be what exactly happened to Pau Gasol when the postseason began. Whether it was the physical toll or the mental fatigue we will never be sure. But whatever the cause, the result was Gasol having the worst post season performance of his career.
More than just a dip in numbers (13 points on 42% shooting over 10 games) it was Pau’s demeanor and lack of aggression that drew ire from Lakers fans. At times he looked completely disengaged from the action on the court and the Lakers team suffered all the more for it, getting swept out of the playoffs by the Mavs in the second round.
Overall Grade: B
The Lakers, perhaps more than any other NBA franchise, are judged on post-season success. Gasol’s lackluster effort in the playoffs will probably stain his 2011 season in the eyes of fans, but the truth is for 90% of the season, Gasol was as consistent as he’s ever been.
Doubts and criticism are nothing new for the Lakers’ big man. He faced them after the 2008 Finals and the Lakers embarrassing Game 6 blowout loss. But if his response following that debacle is any indicator, he ought to come back strong for next season to silence the critics.
In case you forgot what Gasol was capable of , here’s a little footage from early in the season when Pau was at his best
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