The hero we needed and deserved. A memorable line from The Dark Knight, modified to suit Pau Gasol and his place in Los Angeles’ history. Gasol was acquired on February 1st, 2008 for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron Mckie, the draft rights to his brother, Marc Gasol, and two first-round picks. Rather controversial considering how much better Gasol made the Lakers but Marc Gasol ended up playing at an All-Star level so it evens out, right? This was the beginning of Gasol’s tenure with Los Angeles, and what a ride it has been.
Gasol, upon being traded to Los Angeles, led them to a 22-5 record and a subsequent NBA finals appearance against the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, they lost that series in six games in Boston. The Lakers weren’t done though and they came back the next season with a vengeance, winning the NBA championship in five games over the Orlando Magic. Gasol averaged 18 ppg and 9 rpg that season while shooting 57% from the field; outstanding numbers that most certainly were the reason the Lakers made it that far that season.
The following season the Lakers did it again, winning the NBA championship in seven games against the Boston Celtics; a rematch of 2008. Again, without Gasol playing as well as he did (18 ppg, 11 rpg in 2010) the Lakers likely would not have made it as far as they did. Check out the video below and watch the highlights of Gasol’s 2009-10 playoff play. It’s sensational.
Gasol was one of the league’s premiere big men and a top power forward at the time, thus raising arguments about who the best power forward in the league truly was. However, following the failed three-peat attempt in 2011, Gasol came back down to earth. I don’t believe this is his fault though, as he lost Coach Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest coach in basketball, and then went through a decent year under Coach Mike Brown only to be truly let down by Lakers’ brass when they hired Mike D’Antoni.
Gasol’s numbers took an abhorrent decline in D’Antoni’s first year as coach, averaging a pedestrian 14 ppg, and 8.5 rpg, a career-low in ppg, while only playing 49 games due to injury and D’Antoni actually benching Gasol. However, this season Gasol’s numbers have definitely bounced back, averaging 17 ppg, 10 rpg, and an underrated 3 apg this season as he attempts to salvage himself and prove to the NBA that he still has some gas left in the tank. Gasol played only 60 games this season due to various injuries, the latest being a severe case of veritgo that ended his season prematurely. He certainly showed the NBA he can still play at the same high level he’s shown in the past.
Gasol and Kobe Bryant have had tremendous chemistry throughout their tenure together in Los Angeles. Winning two championships together back-to-back builds a trust that can’t be earned by just any NBA player, something Gasol and Bryant certainly had. Bryant may not find another player he can play with and trust as much as Gasol before his career comes to a close. Sure, they had their hardships, like in the 2011 playoffs against New Orleans when LA dropped game one at home, partially due to a poor performance from Gasol. Bryant had this to say regarding Gasol post-game.
We could have gotten a little bit more out of everybody. But Pau is our guy. He’s our guy. He’s the next in line. Responsibility and the pressure comes along with that,” he said, “and he’ll be ready to go next game.
Gasol has the relationship with Bryant that not many others ever had; they have each others backs through thick and thin. As difficult a teammate that Bryant can be Gasol has stuck through and consistently worked on making his team better. In a blog post earlier this year, Gasol discussed whether his time in Los Angeles was up.
If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game….
With Mike D’Antoni out of the picture, it looks more likely that Pau would want to re-sign with the Lakers but that is still up in the air. Gasol, a first-time unrestricted free agent, has multiple suitors this offseason and he’s sure to take a look at all his options carefully before he makes his choice.
Gasol has often been considered soft, someone who doesn’t try to assert himself down-low or play aggressively enough. I agree that Gasol hasn’t been the toughest or most formidable foe in the paint, but that’s not the type of player he is, he plays with finesse. His post moves, footwork, and beautiful touch on his shot will never be forgotten by the Laker faithful. Laker fans everywhere should be thankful to have had Gasol for the two championships he helped bring to Los Angeles, and the wonderful play he brought to the court, night in and night out.
Gasol is a Laker legend, and rightfully so. He has always been underappreciated and trashed if he didn’t perform perfectly every night, and it’s unfair to expect that from anyone. Gasol was the reason the Lakers were able to win back-to-back championships and for the true fans of his game he’ll always be appreciated.
His time in Los Angeles may come to an end this summer, but his legacy will never be forgotten.
Thank you Pau, for everything.