2011-12 Season grade – B
The Los Angeles Lakers came into the 2011-12 season after a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, and a lot of people put the onus on Pau Gasol, who was essentially a non-factor in the post-season and he did not play particularly well against the Mavericks.
Gasol has battled the ‘soft’ label throughout his career, but those critics were silenced after he won two consecutive titles with the Lakers. Still, 2011 did not end on a high note and Gasol had to again show the world what he was capable of.
The season was obviously cut short due to the lockout, but things got worse for Gasol weeks before the season opener. The Lakers front-office was conjuring up a block-buster deal that would have brought in All-Star point guard Chris Paul. As part of the deal, the Lakers would have sent Gasol to Houston and end his tenure with the team. However, the deal was brought down by the league office and Gasol was told that he was still a member of the Lakers. Although Gasol said all the right words, it was clear that he felt a little disrespected for being shopped.
As so, the Lakers had to gear up for a title run even though the relationship and trust with Gasol may have been severely broken.
In the beginning of the season, Gasol was the centerpiece of the Lakers’ front-court as Andrew Bynum sat out due to suspension. Kobe and Gasol continued to strive and it looked like those two would be enjoying a long season run. The Lakers had to get acclimated to new coach Mike Brown, so there was definitely an adjustment period.
Gasol shined in the triangle offense since he was an excellent passer and it took him some time to figure out what Brown wanted. This system focused more on pick-and-roll play, so it was up to Gasol to change his game in order to fit the new coach.
Still, the Spaniard put up some impressive numbers and it looked like he was able to put last year’s struggles in the past. However, once Andrew Bynum came back from his leave, Gasol took a back-seat to the emerging young center. Bynum was now the target in the paint and opponents had trouble defending his skill and size. The Lakers were using Bynum more than Gasol and it was clear that coach Mike Brown had more trust in his center.
Gasol would always be the last one to get position in the paint, so the majority of his shots came from the perimeter. Instead of being in the paint where he is most accustomed to, Gasol had to settle further as the basket since Bynum already took up his position.
Already overlooked by many compared to his Lakers teammates, Gasol was not named to the 2012 NBA All-Star team. Although Gasol missed previous All-Star games, his younger brother Marc Gasol was chosen to represent the Western Conference. Many people questioned the Grizzlies’ logic in trading Pau for Marc, but the younger one emerged as a solid big man and one with a bright future.
Gasol was inconsistent throughout the season and the Lakers had to often remind him of his skills and capabilities. The Lakers needed a valiant effort from Gasol in order to make a run in the playoffs and Kobe Bryant often used the media to motivate him big man during the playoffs.
In the first round series against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers needed seven games to put away the six seed. Gasol did not play well in some of the games, and his worst game was Game 6 in Denver. The Nuggets big men dominated the Lakers’ front-court and Kobe had told Gasol he needed a better effort in Game 7. Although Gasol scored 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, he could not carry that momentum into the next round. The Lakers still did not get much out of Gasol and they eventually lost to the Thunder in five games.
Gasol was the center of trade rumors in the off-season and there is a chance he will end up with another team before the 2012-13 season starts.