This has been a testing year for Pau Gasol. First, a lot of people blamed Gasol for the Lakers being swept out of the playoffs by Dallas because he wasn’t aggressive enough. Then, he was a part of the nixed trade that would have sent him to Houston last December. Next, he performed under a constant threat of being traded by the Lakers. Finally, when the trade deadline came and went and Gasol was still in purple and gold, there was a huge sense of relief for the Spaniard.
Per the Los Angeles Times, Pau told reporters after the trade deadline:
“It had been pretty exhausting to have to deal with it on a daily basis for the past two and a half and three months,” Gasol said. “I’m happy to be here and be a part of the team and focus on the playing and helping the team as much as possible without worrying [about] anything else.”
Basketball was once again Gasol’s main focus, or should I say winning was priority number one. Despite all the distractions and rumors that were surrounding his everyday life, Gasol remained the consummate professional throughout the entire process. Trades are a part of the game, but players are human and have emotions. With this in mind, if you look back at what Gasol has done this season thus far, it is quite impressive.
The first word that pops into mind when thinking about Gasol is consistency. Remember, consistency has been one of the biggest areas of struggle that the Lakers have faced this season. Gasol is averaging 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game on 51 percent shooting. He is also averaging 37.2 minutes per game, which is ranked ninth in the league. Keep in mind, Gasol is now the Lakers’ third option with the season Andrew Bynum has been putting together.
With the departure of Derek Fisher, the team lost one of the most effective leaders in the game. Gasol not only filled Fisher’s void as a co-captain, but he also stepped up as the leader in the locker room and on the court along with Kobe Bryant. Gasol has the experience, personality and tools to lead the team.
Gasol’s leadership has been very visible since the trade deadline and has been showcased during the past two games with the absence of Kobe Bryant, who will sit again tonight due to a shin injury. In the Kobe-less games, Gasol averaged 27.5 points and 11 rebounds, both of which led the team.
“I’m one of the anchors – when (Bryant) is not there, even more – so I get a lot more involved in the offense,” Gasol said. ”I’m not trying to be the main guy here. We have a great team and some great weapons. … I just picked up a little bit the role of scoring and being aggressive offensively just because, obviously, the absence of the top scorer in the league.”
Gasol understands that even though he is technically the third option for the team, his presence and contribution is of the utmost importance to the team and the fans. Gasol is a needed value on the court and in the locker room. If the season is any precedence for how Gasol will perform in the post-season, the fans and the team will be nothing but pleased.