Bryant is who he is, and Gasol will never truly step into that snakeskin – but he sees the forked tongue, believe in those sharp fangs and muster up a little venom of his own.
"He's such a nice person; he wants he other guys to be involved and all this other stuff," Bryant said. "But that's not necessarily what's best for our team."
In fact, the Lakers have gotten away from their star-studded formula. In their first 13 months together, Bryant and Gasol each had 30 or more points in the same game five times. In the next 23 months, it didn't happen a single time ... until New Orleans on Saturday night, when Gasol had 34, Bryant had 32 and the Lakers won.
That improved the Lakers to 5-1 all-time when Bryant and Gasol have 30-30 games. This season, the Lakers are 5-1 when Bryant and Gasol have 25-25 games. It is most definitely a template for greater Lakers success.
And the two-time defending champions, as strange it might sound, have needed a clearer identity.
Let's do this until Andrew Bynum gets back and then switch to that. Let's do this without Bryant in practice but that with him in games. Let's try this defensive scheme after that didn't work.
Refocus on having two of the best players in the world – and go from there. Bryant should be this, Gasol should be that, and everyone else should be the other.
Particularly if, as Bryant explained it, Gasol can be more black swan than white swan.
"What I'd like him to be," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said simply, "is aggressive offensively to score."
When Bryant and O'Neal had 30-30 games in their era, the Lakers were 27-6. It's far easier for the role players to execute properly when they know they just need to play off what the superstars do.
"I'm trying," Gasol said. "It was a positive (talking to Bryant). I've been shooting the ball really well the past three games. I'll continue to be aggressive, be assertive and just utilize my talents to make sure I'm capable of doing what I'm doing out there and not just watching."
When asked about Bryant's advice helping Gasol, Jackson raised both his eyebrows and voice with uncharacteristic expressiveness and said: "I talk to him every day about being more aggressive."
Again, though, it's altogether different when you hear the rationale for more aggression from the man with the most aggression.
"He has really asserted himself, which is something we need from him," Bryant said. "I think he understands that now. I think the switch went on, and you're going to see him continue to attack."
Asked how Gasol responds to his coaching prods to be more aggressive, Jackson pantomimed a meek Gasol with shrugged shoulders, extended palms, widened eyes and pursed lips.
Then Jackson laughed and said: "He totally gets it. He is who he is. We're not going to make him into (Kevin) Garnett. He's not going to go punch guys in the (groin). Right? He's too nice a guy."
But you tell me if it sounds like the nice guy, even if it's simply not his nature to rip anything open, is pushing his envelope gently:
"I wasn't getting very involved," Gasol said. "You have to find and search for a little more sometimes – instead of waiting for it."
While Jackson has been trying to toughen up and dumb down Gasol in some ways the coach fully respects Gasol's established strengths. One of them is a competitive drive that has firms up when playoff-tested.
"This is an intelligent person," Jackson said, "who understands what this game is about."
No, Gasol doesn't have anything to prove.
Yes, Gasol does have things he can and should improve.
We all do, even if we never change who we are at the core.
So Jackson might let Gasol off the hook by saying, "If he gets enough touches in the game, he's going to be fine. Sometimes if he doesn't get enough touches, he gets frozen out."
Yet credit Gasol for grabbing right back on to that hook, saying: "It comes with the aggressiveness. If you're more aggressive and you cut hard and you ask for the ball and you get great position, then your teammates are going to throw it to you. They're going to see that energy. So I think that's something I need to keep up."
Pretty simple really. Gasol and Kobe are your two best scorers, Pau gets the right amount of touches but he doesn't look to score a whole lot, he surveys the floor he jab steps too much. He should just stick to what worked best like the writer said, when he gets the ball- look to score, and when he gets doubled, kick it out.
He has attempted 47 shots in the last 3 games, pretty good sign that he'll be looking to score more.
Edited by MDI, February 07, 2011 - 09:56 AM.