This is the fourth in a series grading the Lakers’ efforts on their 2012-13 season.
Player: Pau Gasol, Lakers forward
How he performed: 13.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting and 8.6 rebounds in regular season; 14 points on 48.1 precent shooting and 9.8 rebounds in playoffs
The Good:Gasol proved that he’s still an elite player if the Lakers feature him correctly. In the last seven games of the regular season, Gasol posted three triple doubles. His 17.6 points per game average represented his highest scoring output whenever he and Dwight Howard played together in the starting lineup. All this happened because the Lakers featured Gasol on the low block instead of as a stretch forward. Such a move allowed Gasol both to facilitate out of double teams to Kobe Bryant for jumpers and Dwight Howard for lobs. It also put Gasol in a better position to play the roll man off pick-and-rolls plays, where he scored 48.9 percent of the time, according to Synergy Sports. And though Gasol didn’t always thrive well in the post (shooting 42.2 percent from the field), that strategy still boded superior than to shooting spot-up jumpers (40.6 percent).
More importantly, Gasol handled his demoted role with enough professionalism and grace. He openly disagreed with playing as a reserve for six games and for playing as a stretch forward. But he didn’t let that sour any of his effort. As a bench player, Gasol still 13.1 points on 53 percent shooting through seven games. Such an attitude led Kobe Bryant to vouch more strongly than in seasons past for the Lakers to feature him more in his comfort zone. It also helped Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni eventually change his sentiments on how to utilize Gasol. That’s why it’s hardly surprising Gasol left the final minutes of the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to San Antonio to a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd.
The Bad: After showing renewed confidence and prolific play in the 2012 London Olympics, it appeared Gasol could carry that momentum into the 2012-13 season. Hardly. Gasol appeared limited by his conditioning partly because of the numerous injuries that inflicted him including knee tendinitis and a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. Those issues only exacerbated Gasol’s inconsistency both with his jumper and on defense. Even if Gasol would’ve thrived better with a different role, D’Antoni’s decision partly stemmed from Gasol laboring up and down the court. Gasol and Nash also failed to establish enough consistent chemistry, something that initially appeared a given considering their team-first mindset.
C+ Gasol had plenty of obstacles thrown at him, including injuries and a demoted role. He still fought through them, but it wasn’t enough to show many glimpses of his former self when he guided the Lakers to two consecutive NBA championships.
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