As they always say, there are always two sides to a story, and such is true when anyone mentions Pau Gasol.
You can continue to question his “softness” (which is really an old and invalid argument). You can contradict his importance to the Lakers, and criticize his legitimacy as one of the top power forwards in the game. But the fact is, as reserved as “The Spaniard” is, you can’t deny that Pau Gasol is just that good.
Saying Pau is overlooked is a tremendous understatement.
In a city as bright as Los Angeles, and on a team filled with all kinds of personalities, people forget about perhaps the Lakers’ most dangerous asset not named Kobe Bryant.
Consider that since coming back from a hamstring injury, Pau and the Lakers have not lost in his first nine games, winning ten straight so far. The Lakers are also enjoying blowing teams out, with a 16.6 average margin in wins with Pau back in the lineup, as opposed to winning by a bit over 3 in an 8-3 record without him. True, they’ve been enjoying a long home stand, but as the defending Champions, it is all the more reason that they should win at home.
Moreover, since his arrival from Memphis in February 1, 2008, besides becoming best friends with tenors, doing cameos in TV shows and enjoying the L.A. lifestyle, the Lakers have not lost three in a row.
And this season, Gasol has already had solid numbers across the board: 17.9 ppg on 58.3% field goal shooting, 9.6 rpg, and 3.8 apg.
Seven-footer or not, Gasol has shown what a complete, fundamentally sound player looks like. He already has a highlight reel’s worth of backdoor bounce passes, follow tip-ins, a variety of post moves, all while shooting 78% from the free throw line.
My guess is that he’s also been a big part in ridding Andrew Bynum of his old habit of bringing the ball down, which makes it easy for guards to strip him. Nowadays, along with Lamar Odom, they’re playing volleyball around the basket, creating easy scoring opportunities and infuriating interior defenses.
A former point guard growing up, he has also shown tremendous ball handling and passing, period. He has such awareness out of the low post, and from time to time has even led fastbreaks. He even has the presence of mind to leak out every now and then for a quick dunk on the other end of the floor. Little things like these play perfect with how the Lakers run their transition game.
Pau has quietly made Laker fans take him for granted, which is a good thing, in a way. It only means that he has been consistent. That in itself is a reflection of “how the Lakers are able to complete games” now, as Phil Jackson would say, unlike the first few games in the start of the season.
It’s also a good thing for his teammates to see that he’s remained hungry and competitive. Regarding playing 17 out of 21 games at home, Gasol was quoted by Yahoo! Sports’ Johnny Ludden: “I want to see us do this on the road in tougher situations against teams that are ready to play.”
The best power forward in the game? Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are still playing, so that’s premature. Best international player? Maybe, but he shares that with Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash.
But we’re not making any comparisons. As Kobe was asked in the O.C.Register about his favorite player, he said…
“Pau knows he’s a bad boy. Publicly, he’s quiet. But he knows that nobody can stop him. He’s fully aware of it.”