No longer will Pau Gasol’s effectiveness on the Lakers hinge on if the team features him enough on offense. With Dwight Howard’s departure to the Houston Rockets via free agency, Gasol is expected to return as the second option behind Kobe Bryant, a formula that helped secure three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two back-to-back championships?
Will that prove enough for Gasol to have a breakout season? That became a topic of discussion on Time Warner Cable’s Access SportsNet Thursday night where analyst Dave Miller, 710 ESPN’s Beto Duran and I looked into all the variables surrounding Gasol’s play.
Miller believes he’s now in a better position to succeed operating in the low post instead of as a facilitator to accommodate either Andrew Bynum or Howard. But it comes with more added responsibility with increased aggressiveness and ability to fight through more double teams. Gasol has proven he can do that, but one thing I argued could hold him back involves the health surrounding his knees. The Lakers estimated Gasol would resume basketball-related activities within 12 weeks after having a procedure May 7 to treat the tendonosis in both of his knees. Yet, that time frame passed four weeks ago and Gasol’s only progressed enough to start running on grass. Gasol a month left to fully rehab before training camp starts and two months before the regular season begins, a time frame that could provide a huge indicator whether he’ll have a breakout season in the final year of his $19.3 million contract. Meanwhile, Duran believes any obstacle will become easier simply because he won’t have to deal with the ongoing trade rumors as he’s done in years past.
It will be an interesting season indeed for Gasol, who will have more control over his success than in ever.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org