Magic Johnson recently called Pau Gasol–among others–out on Twitter:
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 7, 2013
The Magic Man went on to call out the likes of Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace, and Jodie Meeks.
However, the criticism of Gasol rippled the most throughout Southern California, and it couldn’t be more true.
Whether it’s Gasol’s fault for not being assertive and aggressive enough, or Mike D’Antoni’s fault for not playing Pau closer to the basket, the remaining fact is that Gasol simply isn’t producing the way he should be.
With Gasol, Howard, and Jordan Hill all expected to be sidelined for some time, the Lakers are faced with even more adversity.
However, the fact that Howard’s injury (torn labrum) could take some times could mean that Gasol will be back before him.
If that’s the case, then it’s definitely time for Pau to take Magic’s advice and go back to putting up big numbers. He’ll be placed into the center position when he returns, and should use that time to get into a rhythm and perhaps prove to Mike D’Antoni exactly how effective he can be when positioned close to the basket.
Even if he returns after or at the same time as Howard, Gasol still needs to set a tone and come out aggressive. If he demands to be closer to the basket–even alongside Howard–he must prove that he’s worthy of performing; and he is.
As an NBA player, Gasol is a career 18.5 points, 9.2 rebounds a game guy; but many have simply written Gasol off as too old, or just a shell of his previous self.
I’m not buying it.
Flash back to summer of 2012 (I know, it’s been a while since then) and recall Gasol’s play with the Spanish National Team in the London Olympic Games: Gasol put up averages of 19.1 points (on 57 percent shooting) and 7.6 rebounds–and he did it alongside his brother, Marc Gasol, who is a more natural center.
Obviously, Gasol was the main scoring option on that team, but it proves that he can still put up big numbers. Additionally, over those eight Olympics games, Gasol averaged 12.5 field goal attempts per game; which is not much more than he averages currently (11.2). Sure, those were 40-minute International games instead of 48-minute NBA games, but a current average of 12.2 points per game on 41.6 percent shooting simply isn’t justified by that.
If Gasol does return to the lineup before Howard, he should force his way into the post and take it upon himself to help carry the offense. Kobe Bryant has already said he feels the offense should run through Pau more, so why not?
At the start of the summer before the Olympics, Gasol proclaimed himself as a “beast” because of his added strength, and actually was very solid in the following games.
Therefore, regardless if Gasol returns before, after, or at the same time as Dwight Howard, the Lakers need him to go back to being the “beast” he was over the summer.
I personally feel that once he gets a couple buckets close to the basket and is defended physically early on, he tends to fight back and toughen up throughout the game. I recall plenty of instances late in games when Gasol was pushed and he screamed, made the shot, and even gets the “and 1.” That simply hasn’t happened this year much–or perhaps even at all.
It’s time for Pau Gasol to continue to pick apart teams with his intelligence, but also once again find his “inner beast” and battle through his opponents.
The Lakers need the hair flailing, voice screaming, and overall passionate Pau Gasol who helped lead the Lakers to three NBA Finals appearances and two NBA Championships back, and they need him now.